Standard cell culture guidelines often use media supplemented with antibiotics to prevent cell contamination. However, relatively little is known about the effect of antibiotic use in cell culture on gene expression and the extent to which this treatment could confound results. To comprehensively characterize the effect of antibiotic treatment on gene expression, we performed RNA-seq and ChIP-seq for H3K27ac on HepG2 cells, a human liver cell line commonly used for pharmacokinetic, metabolism and genomic studies, cultured in media supplemented with penicillin-streptomycin (PenStrep) or vehicle control. We identified 209 PenStrep-responsive genes, including transcription factors such as ATF3 that are likely to alter the regulation of other genes. Pathway analyses found a significant enrichment for "xenobiotic metabolism signaling" and "PXR/RXR activation" pathways. Our H3K27ac ChIP-seq identified 9,514 peaks that are PenStrep responsive. These peaks were enriched near genes that function in cell differentiation, tRNA modification, nuclease activity and protein dephosphorylation. Our results suggest that PenStrep treatment can significantly alter gene expression and regulation in a common liver cell type such as HepG2, advocating that antibiotic treatment should be taken into account when carrying out genetic, genomic or other biological assays in cultured cells.
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