The liver is characterized by sexually dimorphic gene expression translating into sex-specific differences in lipid, drug, steroid hormone, and xenobiotic metabolism, with distinct responses of males and females to environmental challenges. Here, we investigated the role of the Krüppel-associated box (KRAB)-associated protein 1 (KAP1) epigenetic regulator in this process. Liver-specific KAP1 knockout (KO) led to strikingly sexually dimorphic phenotypic disturbances, including male-predominant steatosis and hepatic tumors with up-regulation of protein kinase B and extracellular signal-related kinases 1/2 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling. This correlated with the sex-specific transcriptional dysregulation of a wide range of metabolic genes, notably those involved in retinol and sex hormone processing as well as in detoxification. Furthermore, chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing indicated that a number of dysregulated genes are direct targets of the KRAB/KAP1 repression system. Those genes include sexually dimorphic cytochrome P 450 Cyp2d9, glutathione S-transferase π, Cyp2a, Cyp2b, and Cyp3a gene clusters. Additionally, we identified a male-restricted KAP1-binding site in the fat-specific protein 27 gene, correlating with its male-predominant up-regulation upon Kap1 deletion, suggesting that the latter might be an important trigger in the development of male-specific hepatosteatosis and secondary tumorigenesis. Conclusion: This work reveals KRAB/KAP1-mediated transcriptional regulation as a central event in metabolic control hormones, drugs, and xenobiotics in the liver and further links disturbances in these processes with hepatic carcinogenesis.
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