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Effects of orally applied butyrate bolus on histone acetylation and cytochrome P450 enzyme activity in the liver of chicken – a randomized controlled trial

Gábor Mátis1, Zsuzsanna Neogrády1, György Csikó2, Anna Kulcsár1, Ákos Kenéz3 and Korinna Huber3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physiology and Biochemistry, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Szent István University, István utca 2, H-1078, Budapest, Hungary

2 Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Szent István University, István utca 2, H-1078, Budapest, Hungary

3 Department of Physiology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Bischofsholer Damm 15/102, D-30173, Hannover, Germany

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Nutrition & Metabolism 2013, 10:12  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-10-12

Published: 22 January 2013



Butyrate is known as histone deacetylase inhibitor, inducing histone hyperacetylation in vitro and playing a predominant role in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression and cell function. We hypothesized that butyrate, endogenously produced by intestinal microbial fermentation or applied as a nutritional supplement, might cause similar in vivo modifications in the chromatin structure of the hepatocytes, influencing the expression of certain genes and therefore modifying the activity of hepatic microsomal drug-metabolizing cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes.


An animal study was carried out in chicken as a model to investigate the molecular mechanisms of butyrate’s epigenetic actions in the liver. Broiler chicks in the early post-hatch period were treated once daily with orally administered bolus of butyrate following overnight starvation with two different doses (0.25 or 1.25 g/kg body weight per day) for five days. After slaughtering, cell nucleus and microsomal fractions were separated by differential centrifugation from the livers. Histones were isolated from cell nuclei and acetylation of hepatic core histones was screened by western blotting. The activity of CYP2H and CYP3A37, enzymes involved in biotransformation in chicken, was detected by aminopyrine N-demethylation and aniline-hydroxylation assays from the microsomal suspensions.


Orally added butyrate, applied in bolus, had a remarkable impact on nucleosome structure of hepatocytes: independently of the dose, butyrate caused hyperacetylation of histone H2A, but no changes were monitored in the acetylation state of H2B. Intensive hyperacetylation of H3 was induced by the higher administered dose, while the lower dose tended to increase acetylation ratio of H4. In spite of the observed modification in histone acetylation, no significant changes were observed in the hepatic microsomal CYP2H and CYP3A37 activity.


Orally added butyrate in bolus could cause in vivo hyperacetylation of the hepatic core histones, providing modifications in the epigenetic regulation of cell function. However, these changes did not result in alteration of drug-metabolizing hepatic CYP2H and CYP3A37 enzymes, so there might be no relevant pharmacoepigenetic influences of oral application of butyrate under physiological conditions.

Short chain fatty acids; Butyrate; Histone deacetylase inhibitor; Histone hyperacetylation; Epigenetics; Cytochrome P450 enzymes