Sex differences are widespread in both mouse and human liver, and are associated with clinically relevant sex differences in hepatic drug and steroid metabolism, lipid metabolic profiles, the incidence of liver cancer, and cardiovascular disease risk. This application focuses on the genomic and epigenomic actions of growth hormone (GH), a pituitary polypeptide hormone and major regulator of liver metabolic functions, in particular those that show sex differences. The studies proposed test the hypothesis that GH regulates the chromatin states of sex-specific genes, and thereby establishes an epigenomic environment that facilitates the sex- specific actions of GH in the liver. The mouse model will be used to investigate the mechanisms by which GH, via its sex-specific temporal patterns of pituitary gland secretion (pulsatile in males vs. near continuous in females), activates transcriptional pathways and epigenetic events that regulate hundreds of liver-expressed genes in a sex-specific manner. Major progress during the last project period included the discovery of key GH-dependent transcriptional activators and repressors that interact on a genome-wide level and regulate sex differences in the liver, the development of global maps of accessible chromatin regions (DNase hypersensitivity) and epigenetic signatures (chromatin marks) that identify several hundred sex-specific regulatory elements, and the discovery of novel sex-specific long, intergenic non-coding RNA genes that are GH-regulated and may determine sex-specific chromatin states. These findings provide a unique opportunity to move the field forward by elucidating genome-wide, and at the epigenetic level, the fundamental biological mechanisms that underlie the complex regulation of sex differences in the liver by pituitary GH secretory patterns. This will be accomplished through the discovery of: 1) chromatin states and their associated transcription factor motifs that characterize distinct subsets of sex-specific genes;2) distal regulatory elements and their interactions with sex-specific target genes;and 3) the role of sex-specific, GH-regulated long, intergenic non-coding RNA genes in establishing and maintaining the sex-differentiated chromatin states that facilitate sex differential liver gene transcription. Together, these studies will identify key mechanistic features that determine the complex, GH-regulated and sex-biased expression of genes that control liver metabolic processes with a major impact on human health. The results obtained are expected to have a high impact, shifting the mechanistic focus of studies on GH action to the epigenome, and will serve as a paradigm for other endocrine factors that alter the epigenome in complex ways.

Public Health Relevance

This project investigates how growth hormone regulates liver enzymes and liver function in ways that differ between males and females. These studies have important implications for the influence of sex and hormone status on the processing in the liver of cholesterol, hormones, drugs, cancer-causing chemicals and other substances of medical and environmental importance.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology Study Section (MCE)
Program Officer
Pawlyk, Aaron
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Boston University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
Zip Code
Matthews, Bryan J; Waxman, David J (2018) Computational prediction of CTCF/cohesin-based intra-TAD loops that insulate chromatin contacts and gene expression in mouse liver. Elife 7:
Hao, Pengying; Waxman, David J (2018) Functional Roles of Sex-Biased, Growth Hormone-Regulated MicroRNAs miR-1948 and miR-802 in Young Adult Mouse Liver. Endocrinology 159:1377-1392
Yu, Ai-Ming; Ingelman-Sundberg, Magnus; Cherrington, Nathan J et al. (2017) Regulation of drug metabolism and toxicity by multiple factors of genetics, epigenetics, lncRNAs, gut microbiota, and diseases: a meeting report of the 21st International Symposium on Microsomes and Drug Oxidations (MDO). Acta Pharm Sin B 7:241-248
Lau-Corona, Dana; Suvorov, Alexander; Waxman, David J (2017) Feminization of male mouse liver by persistent growth hormone stimulation: Activation of sex-biased transcriptional networks and dynamic changes in chromatin states. Mol Cell Biol :
Connerney, Jeannette; Lau-Corona, Dana; Rampersaud, Andy et al. (2017) Activation of Male Liver Chromatin Accessibility and STAT5-Dependent Gene Transcription by Plasma Growth Hormone Pulses. Endocrinology 158:1386-1405
Oshida, Keiyu; Waxman, David J; Corton, J Christopher (2016) Chemical and Hormonal Effects on STAT5b-Dependent Sexual Dimorphism of the Liver Transcriptome. PLoS One 11:e0150284
Oshida, Keiyu; Vasani, Naresh; Waxman, David J et al. (2016) Disruption of STAT5b-Regulated Sexual Dimorphism of the Liver Transcriptome by Diverse Factors Is a Common Event. PLoS One 11:e0148308
Melia, Tisha; Hao, Pengying; Yilmaz, Feyza et al. (2016) Hepatic Long Intergenic Noncoding RNAs: High Promoter Conservation and Dynamic, Sex-Dependent Transcriptional Regulation by Growth Hormone. Mol Cell Biol 36:50-69
Conforto, Tara L; Steinhardt 4th, George F; Waxman, David J (2015) Cross Talk Between GH-Regulated Transcription Factors HNF6 and CUX2 in Adult Mouse Liver. Mol Endocrinol 29:1286-302
Ling, Guoyu; Waxman, David J (2013) Isolation of nuclei for use in genome-wide DNase hypersensitivity assays to probe chromatin structure. Methods Mol Biol 977:13-9

Showing the most recent 10 out of 114 publications