Cholesterol gallstone disease, one of the commonest digestive diseases in western countries, is induced by an imbalance in cholesterol metabolism, which involves intestinal absorption, hepatic biosynthesis, and biliary output of cholesterol, and its conversion to bile acids. Several components of the metabolic syndrome (e.g., obesity, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and hyperinsulinemia) are also well-known risk factors for gallstones, suggesting the existence of interplay between common pathophysiological pathways influenced by insulin resistance, genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors. Cholesterol gallstones may be enhanced, at least in part, by the abnormal expression of a set of the genes that affect cholesterol homeostasis and lead to insulin resistance. Additionally, epigenetic mechanisms (mainly DNA methylation, histone acetylation/deacetylation, and noncoding microRNAs) may modify gene expression in the absence of an altered DNA sequence, in response to different lithogenic environmental stimuli, such as diet, lifestyle, pollutants, also occurring in utero before birth. In this review, we will comment on various steps of the pathogenesis of cholesterol gallstones and interaction between environmental and genetic factors. The epigenomic approach may offer new options for therapy of gallstones and better possibilities for primary prevention in subjects at risk.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Organic Chemistry