Osmotic regulation of betaine homocysteine-S-methyltransferase expression in H4IIE rat hepatoma cells

Christine Schäfer, Lars Hoffmann, Katrin Heldt, Mohammad Reza Lornejad-Schäfer, Gernot Brauers, Thor Gehrmann, Timothy A. Garrow, Dieter Häussinger, Ertan Mayatepek, Bernd C. Schwahn, Freimut Schliess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell hydration changes critically affect liver metabolism and gene expression. In the course of gene expression studies using nylon cDNA-arrays we found that hyperosmolarity (405 mosmol/l) suppressed the betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (Bhmt) mRNA expression in H4IIE rat hepatoma cells. This was confirmed by Northern blot and real-time quantitative RT-PCR analysis, which in addition unraveled a pronounced induction of Bhmt mRNA expression by hypoosmotic (205 mosmol/l) swelling. Osmotic regulation of Bhmt mRNA expression was largely paralleled at the levels of Bhmt protein and enzymatic activity. Like hyperosmotic NaCl, hyperosmotic raffinose but not hyperosmotic urea suppressed Bhmt mRNA expression, suggesting that cell shrinkage rather than increased ionic strength or hyperosmolarity per se is the trigger. Hypoosmolarity increased the expression of a reporter gene driven by the entire human BHMT promoter, whereas destabilization of BHMT mRNA was observed under hyperosmotic conditions. Osmosensitivity of Bhmt mRNA expression was impaired by inhibitors of tyrosine kinases and cyclic nucleotide-dependent kinases. The osmotic regulation of BHMT may be part of a cell volume-regulatory response and additionally lead to metabolic alterations that depend on the availability of betaine-derived methyl groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G1089-G1098
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Cell volume
  • Gene expression
  • Liver
  • Methylation
  • Osmolytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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