Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most prevalent forms of chronic liver disorders among adults, children, and adolescents, and a growing epidemic, worldwide. Notwithstanding the known susceptibility factors for NAFLD, i.e., obesity and metabolic syndrome, the exact cause(s) of this disease and the underlying mechanisms of its initiation and progression are not fully elucidated. NAFLD is a multi-faceted disease with metabolic, genetic, epigenetic, and environmental determinants. Accumulating evidence shows that exposure to environmental toxicants contributes to the development of NAFLD by promoting mitochondrial dysfunction and generating reactive oxygen species in the liver. Imbalances in the redox state of the cells are known to cause alterations in the patterns of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), the oxidative product of 5-methylcytosine (5mC), thereby influencing gene regulation. The 5hmC-mediated deregulation of genes involved in hepatic metabolism is an emerging area of research in NAFLD. This review summarizes our current knowledge on the interactive role of xenobiotic exposure and DNA hydroxymethylation in the pathogenesis of fatty liver disease. Increasing the mechanistic knowledge of NAFLD initiation and progression is crucial for the development of new and effective strategies for prevention and treatment of this disease.
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