Transcriptome analysis of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in human subjects following a 36 h fast provides evidence of effects on genes regulating inflammation, apoptosis and energy metabolism

R.M. Elliott*, B. de Roos, S.J. Duthie, F.G. Bouwman, I. Rubio Aliaga, L.K. Crosley, C. Mayer, A.C. Polley, C. Heim, S. Coort, C.T. Evelo, F. Mulholland, H. Daniel, E.C. Mariman, I.T. Johnson

*Corresponding author for this work

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There is growing interest in the potential health benefits of diets that involve regular periods of fasting. While animal studies have provided compelling evidence that feeding patterns such as alternate-day fasting can increase longevity and reduce incidence of many chronic diseases, the evidence from human studies is much more limited and equivocal. Additionally, although several candidate processes have been proposed to contribute to the health benefits observed in animals, the precise molecular mechanisms responsible remain to be elucidated. The study described here examined the effects of an extended fast on gene transcript profiles in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from ten apparently healthy subjects, comparing transcript profiles after an overnight fast, sampled on four occasions at weekly intervals, with those observed on a single occasion after a further 24 h of fasting. Analysis of the overnight fasted data revealed marked inter-individual differences, some of which were associated with parameters such as gender and subject body mass. For example, a striking positive association between body mass index and the expression of genes regulated by type 1 interferon was observed. Relatively subtle changes were observed following the extended fast. Nonetheless, the pattern of changes was consistent with stimulation of fatty acid oxidation, alterations in cell cycling and apoptosis and decreased expression of key pro-inflammatory genes. Stimulation of fatty acid oxidation is an expected response, most likely in all tissues, to fasting. The other processes highlighted provide indications of potential mechanisms that could contribute to the putative beneficial effects of intermittent fasting in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number432
Number of pages11
JournalGenes and nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Fasting
  • Gene expression profiling
  • Transcriptomics
  • Mononuclear cells
  • Type 1 interferon
  • Inflammation
  • P21
  • MICE

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