Effects of physical exercise on endothelial function and DNA methylation

Luca Ferrari, Marco Vicenzi, Letizia Tarantini, Francesco Barretta, Silvia Sironi, Andrea A. Baccarelli, Marco Guazzi, Valentina Bollati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Essential hypertension is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. Epidemiological studies have shown that physical training can reduce blood pressure (BP), both in hypertensive and healthy individuals. Increasing evidence is emerging that DNA methylation is involved in alteration of the phenotype and of vascular function in response to environmental stimuli. We evaluated repetitive element and gene-specific DNA methylation in peripheral blood leukocytes of 68 volunteers, taken before (T0) and after (T1) a three-month intervention protocol of continuative aerobic physical exercise. DNA methylation was assessed by bisulfite-PCR and pyrosequencing. Comparing T0 and T1 measurements, we found an increase in oxygen consumption at peak of exercise (VO2peak) and a decrease in diastolic BP at rest. Exercise increased the levels of ALU and Long Interspersed Nuclear Element 1 (LINE-1) repetitive elements methylation, and of Endothelin-1 (EDN1), Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS2), and Tumour Necrosis Factor Alpha (TNF) gene-specific methylation. VO2peak was positively associated with methylation of ALU, EDN1, NOS2, and TNF; systolic BP at rest was inversely associated with LINE-1, EDN1, and NOS2 methylation; diastolic BP was inversely associated with EDN1 and NOS2 methylation. Our findings suggest a possible role of DNA methylation for lowering systemic BP induced by the continuative aerobic physical training program.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2530
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • DNA methylation
  • Hypertension
  • Physical exercise
  • Pyrosequencing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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