Intensive cardiovascular risk reduction induces sustainable changes in expression of genes and pathways important to vascular function

Darrell L. Ellsworth*, Daniel T. Croft, Jamie Weyandt, Lori A. Sturtz, Heather L. Blackburn, Amy Burke, Mary Jane Haberkorn, Fionnuala A. McDyer, Gera L. Jellema, Ryan Van Laar, Kimberly A. Mamula, Yaqin Chen, Marina N. Vernalis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background-Healthy lifestyle changes are thought to mediate cardiovascular disease risk through pathways affecting endothelial function and progression of atherosclerosis; however, the extent, persistence, and clinical significance of molecular change during lifestyle modification are not well known. We examined the effect of a rigorous cardiovascular disease risk reduction program on peripheral blood gene expression profiles in 63 participants and 63 matched controls to characterize molecular responses and identify regulatory pathways important to cardiovascular health. Methods and Results-Dramatic changes in dietary fat intake (-61%; P>0.001 versus controls) and physical fitness (+34%; P>0.001) led to significant improvements in cardiovascular disease risk factors. Analysis of variance with false discovery rate correction for multiple testing (P>0.05) identified 26 genes after 12 weeks and 143 genes after 52 weeks that were differentially expressed from baseline in participants. Controls showed little change in cardiovascular disease risk factors or gene expression. Quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction validated differential expression for selected transcripts. Lifestyle modification effectively reduced expression of proinflammatory genes associated with neutrophil activation and molecular pathways important to vascular function, including cytokine production, carbohydrate metabolism, and steroid hormones. Prescription medications did not significantly affect changes in gene expression. Conclusions-Successful and sustained modulation of gene expression through lifestyle changes may have beneficial effects on the vascular system not apparent from traditional risk factors. Healthy lifestyles may restore homeostasis to the leukocyte transcriptome by downregulating lactoferrin and other genes important in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Clinical Trial Registration-URL: Unique identifier: NCT01805492

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-160
Number of pages10
JournalCirculation: Cardiovascular Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Gene expression
  • Lifestyle
  • Obesity


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