The Epigenomics database at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is a new resource that has been created to serve as a comprehensive public resource for whole-genome epigenetic data sets (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/epigenomics). Epigenetics is the study of stable and heritable changes in gene expression that occur independently of the primary DNA sequence. Epigenetic mechanisms include post-translational modifications of histones, DNA methylation, chromatin conformation and non-coding RNAs. It has been observed that misregulation of epigenetic processes has been associated with human disease. We have constructed the new resource by selecting the subset of epigenetics-specific data from general-purpose archives, such as the Gene Expression Omnibus, and Sequence Read Archives, and then subjecting them to further review, annotation and reorganization. Raw data is processed and mapped to genomic coordinates to generate ‘tracks’ that are a visual representation of the data. These data tracks can be viewed using popular genome browsers or downloaded for local analysis. The Epigenomics resource also provides the user with a unique interface that allows for intuitive browsing and searching of data sets based on biological attributes. Currently, there are 69 studies, 337 samples and over 1100 data tracks from five well-studied species that are viewable and downloadable in Epigenomics.
Epigenetics is focused on understanding the control of gene expression beyond what is encoded in the sequence of DNA. Central to growing interest in the field is the hope that more can be learned about the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms underlying processes of human development and disease. Researchers have begun to examine epigenetic alterations – such as changes in promoter DNA methylation, genomic imprinting, and expression of miRNA – to learn more about epigenetic regulation in the placenta, an organ whose proper development and function are crucial to the health growth and survival of the developing fetus. A number of studies are now making important links between alterations to appropriate epigenetic regulation in the placenta and diseases of gestation and early life. In addition, these studies are adding important insight into our understanding of trophoblast biology and differentiation as well as placental immunology. Examining epigenetic alterations in the placenta will prove especially important in the search for biomarkers of exposure, pathology, and disease risk and can provide critical insights into the biology of development and pathogenesis of disease. Thus, epigenetic alterations may aid in disease diagnosis and prognosis as well as in targeting new treatment and prevention strategies.
DNA methylation; environmental exposure; miRNA; imprinting
Epigenetics refers to changes in phenotype and gene expression that occur without alterations in DNA sequence. Epigenetic modifications of the genome can be acquired de novo and are potentially heritable. This review focuses on the emerging recognition of a role for epigenetics in the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Lessons learned from the epigenetics in cancer and neurodevelopmental diseases, such as Prader-Willi syndrome, can be applied to PAH. These syndromes suggest that there is substantial genetic and epigenetic cross-talk such that a single phenotype can result from a genetic cause, an epigenetic cause, or a combined abnormality. There are three major mechanisms of epigenetic regulation, including methylation of CpG islands, mediated by DNA methyltransferases, modification of histone proteins, and microRNAs. There is substantial interaction between these epigenetic mechanisms. Recently, it was discovered that there may be an epigenetic component to PAH. In PAH there is downregulation of superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) and normoxic activation of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF-1α). This decrease in SOD2 results from methylation of CpG islands in SOD2 by lung DNA methyltransferases. The partial silencing of SOD2 alters redox signaling, activates HIF-1α) and leads to excessive cell proliferation. The same hyperproliferative epigenetic abnormality occurs in cancer. These epigenetic abnormalities can be therapeutically reversed. Epigenetic mechanisms may mediate gene-environment interactions in PAH and explain the great variability in susceptibility to stimuli such as anorexigens, virus, and shunts. Epigenetics may be relevant to the female predisposition to PAH and the incomplete penetrance of BMPR2 mutations in familial PAH.
CpG islands; DNA methyl transferases; histone acetylation; small inhibitor RNA; superoxide dismutase 2
With the availability of complete genome sequences for a growing number of organisms, high-throughput methods for gene annotation and analysis of genome dynamics are needed. The application of whole-genome tiling microarrays for studies of global gene expression is providing a more unbiased view of the transcriptional activity within genomes. For example, this approach has led to the identification and isolation of many novel non-protein-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), which have been suggested to comprise a major component of the transcriptome that have novel functions involved in epigenetic regulation of the genome. Additionally, tiling arrays have been recently applied to the study of histone modifications and methylation of cytosine bases (DNA methylation). Surprisingly, recent studies combining the analysis of gene expression (transcriptome) and DNA methylation (methylome) using whole-genome tiling arrays revealed that DNA methylation regulates the expression levels of many ncRNAs. Further capture and integration of additional types of genome-wide data sets will help to illuminate additional hidden features of the dynamic genomic landscape that are regulated by both genetic and epigenetic pathways in plants.
The regulation of gene expression plays a pivotal role in complex phenotypes, and epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation are essential to this process. The availability of next-generation sequencing technologies allows us to study epigenetic variation at an unprecedented level of resolution. Even so, our understanding of the underlying sources of epigenetic variability remains limited. Twin studies have played an essential role in estimating phenotypic heritability, and these now offer an opportunity to study epigenetic variation as a dynamic quantitative trait. High monozygotic twin discordance rates for common diseases suggest that unexplained environmental or epigenetic factors could be involved. Recent genome-wide epigenetic studies in disease-discordant monozygotic twins emphasize the power of this design to successfully identify epigenetic changes associated with complex traits. We describe how large-scale epigenetic studies of twins can improve our understanding of how genetic, environmental and stochastic factors impact upon epigenetics, and how such studies can provide a comprehensive understanding of how epigenetic variation affects complex traits.
During mammalian evolution, complex systems of epigenetic gene regulation have been established: Epigenetic mechanisms control tissue-specific gene expression, X chromosome inactivation in females and genomic imprinting. Studying DNA sequence conservation in imprinted genes, it becomes evident that evolution of gene function and evolution of epigenetic gene regulation are tightly connected. Furthermore, comparative studies allow the identification of DNA sequence features that distinguish imprinted genes from biallelically expressed genes. Among these features are CpG islands, tandem repeats and retrotransposed elements that are known to play major roles in epigenetic gene regulation. Currently, more and more genetic and epigenetic data sets become available. In future, such data sets will provide the basis for more complex investigations on epigenetic variation in human populations. Therein, an exciting topic will be the genetic and epigenetic variability of imprinted genes and its input on human disease.
Genomic imprinting; Mammalian evolution; Repetitive elements; DNA methylation; CpG island
Genome-wide association studies have thus far failed to explain the observed heritability of complex human diseases. This is referred to as the “missing heritability” problem. However, these analyses have usually neglected to consider a role for epigenetic variation, which has been associated with many human diseases. We extend models of epigenetic inheritance to investigate whether environment-sensitive epigenetic modifications of DNA might explain observed patterns of familial aggregation. We find that variation in epigenetic state and environmental state can result in highly heritable phenotypes through a combination of epigenetic and environmental inheritance. These two inheritance processes together can produce familial covariances significantly higher than those predicted by models of purely epigenetic inheritance and similar to those expected from genetic effects. The results suggest that epigenetic variation, inherited both directly and through shared environmental effects, may make a key contribution to the missing heritability.
Methylation of CpG dinucleotides is a fundamental mechanism of epigenetic regulation in eukaryotic genomes. Development of methods for rapid genome wide methylation profiling will greatly facilitate both hypothesis and discovery driven research in the field of epigenetics. In this regard, a single molecule approach to methylation profiling offers several unique advantages that include elimination of chemical DNA modification steps and PCR amplification.
A single molecule approach is presented for the discernment of methylation profiles, based on optical mapping. We report results from a series of pilot studies demonstrating the capabilities of optical mapping as a platform for methylation profiling of whole genomes. Optical mapping was used to discern the methylation profile from both an engineered and wild type Escherichia coli. Furthermore, the methylation status of selected loci within the genome of human embryonic stem cells was profiled using optical mapping.
The optical mapping platform effectively detects DNA methylation patterns. Due to single molecule detection, optical mapping offers significant advantages over other technologies. This advantage stems from obviation of DNA modification steps, such as bisulfite treatment, and the ability of the platform to assay repeat dense regions within mammalian genomes inaccessible to techniques using array-hybridization technologies.
Neuropsychiatric disorders affect a large segment of the human population and result in large costs to society. The majority of such disorders have unknown underlying causes. Recent evidence suggests an important role for epigenetic regulation in the emergence of neuropsychiatric disease. Epigenetics may provide a link between genetic and environmental factors and behavior. Epigenetic signaling involves changes on the structure of chromatin; such changes are often triggered and maintained by the post-translational modification of chromatin proteins and/or DNA. Recent proteomic technologies have enabled the study of epigenetic mechanisms in a high-throughput manner. This review will provide an overview of the major epigenetic pathways and modern techniques for their study, before focusing on experimental evidence supporting a strong role for epigenetics in selected psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and drug addiction. These results highlight a great need for the inclusion of the proteomic characterization of epigenetic mechanisms in the study of gene/disease associations in psychiatric disorders.
Epigenetics; chromatin; histone modification; DNA methylation; neuropsychiatric disorders
Epigenetics is defined as the study of all inheritable and potentially reversible changes in genome function that do not alter the nucleotide sequence within the DNA. Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, histone modification, nucleosome positioning, and microRNAs (miRNAs) are essential to carry out key functions in the regulation of gene expression. Therefore, the epigenetic mechanisms are a window to understanding the possible mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of complex diseases such as autoimmune diseases. It is noteworthy that autoimmune diseases do not have the same epidemiology, pathology, or symptoms but do have a common origin that can be explained by the sharing of immunogenetic mechanisms. Currently, epigenetic research is looking for disruption in one or more epigenetic mechanisms to provide new insights into autoimmune diseases. The identification of cell-specific targets of epigenetic deregulation will serve us as clinical markers for diagnosis, disease progression, and therapy approaches.
The transcriptome of a cell is represented by a myriad of different RNA molecules with and without protein-coding capacities. In recent years, advances in sequencing technologies have allowed researchers to more fully appreciate the complexity of whole transcriptomes, showing that the vast majority of the genome is transcribed, producing a diverse population of non-protein coding RNAs (ncRNAs). Thus, the biological significance of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) have been largely underestimated. Amongst these multiple classes of ncRNAs, the long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are apparently the most numerous and functionally diverse. A small but growing number of lncRNAs have been experimentally studied, and a view is emerging that these are key regulators of epigenetic gene regulation in mammalian cells. LncRNAs have already been implicated in human diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration, highlighting the importance of this emergent field. In this article, we review the catalogs of annotated lncRNAs and the latest advances in our understanding of lncRNAs.
non-coding RNAs; regulation; long non-coding RNA; epigenetics
A number of studies have shown that transcriptome analysis in terms of chromosomal location can reveal regions of non-random transcriptional activity within the genome. Genomic clusters of differentially expressed genes can identify genomic patterns of structural organization, underlying copy number variations or long-range epigenetic regulation such as X-chromosome inactivation. Here we apply an integrative bioinformatics analysis to a collection of 315 freely available mouse pluripotent stem cell samples to discover transcriptional clusters in the genome. We show that over half of the analysed samples (56.83%) carry whole or partial-chromosome spanning clusters which recur in genomic regions previously implicated in chromosomal imbalances. Strikingly, we found that the presence of such large-clusters is linked to the differential expression of a limited number of genes, common to all samples carrying clusters irrespectively of the chromosome where the cluster is found. We have used these genes to train and test classification models that can predict samples that carry large-scale clusters on any chromosome with over 90% accuracy. Our findings suggest that there is a common downstream activation in these cells that affects a limited number of nodes. We propose that this effect is linked to selective advantage and identify potential driver genes.
Epigenetic regulation of gene expression, through covalent modification of histones, is a key process controlling growth and development. Accordingly, the transcription factors regulating these processes are important targets of genetic diseases. However, surprisingly little is known about the relationship between aberrant epigenetic states, the cellular process affected, and their phenotypic consequences. By chromosomal breakpoint mapping in a patient with a Noonan syndrome–like phenotype that encompassed short stature, blepharoptosis, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, we identified haploinsufficiency of the histone acetyltransferase gene MYST histone acetyltransferase (monocytic leukemia) 4 (MYST4), as the underlying cause of the phenotype. Using acetylation, whole genome expression, and ChIP studies in cells from the patient, cell lines in which MYST4 expression was knocked down using siRNA, and the Myst4 querkopf mouse, we found that H3 acetylation is important for neural, craniofacial, and skeletal morphogenesis, mainly through its ability to specifically regulating the MAPK signaling pathway. This finding further elucidates the complex role of histone modifications in mammalian development and adds what we believe to be a new mechanism to the pathogenic phenotypes resulting from misregulation of the RAS signaling pathway.
The identification of all epigenetic modifications implicated in gene expression is the next step for a better understanding of human biology in both normal and pathological states. This field is referred to as epigenomics, and it is defined as epigenetic changes (ie, DNA methylation, histone modifications and regulation by noncoding RNAs such as microRNAs) on a genomic scale rather than a single gene. Epigenetics modulate the structure of the chromatin, thereby affecting the transcription of genes in the genome. Different studies have already identified changes in epigenetic modifications in a few genes in specific pathways in cancers. Based on these epigenetic changes, drugs against different types of tumors were developed, which mainly target epimutations in the genome. Examples include DNA methylation inhibitors, histone modification inhibitors, and small molecules that target chromatin-remodeling proteins. However, these drugs are not specific, and side effects are a major problem; therefore, new DNA sequencing technologies combined with epigenomic tools have the potential to identify novel biomarkers and better molecular targets to treat cancers. The purpose of this review is to discuss current and emerging epigenomic tools and to address how these new technologies may impact the future of cancer management.
genomics; epigenomics; epigenetics; DNA methylation; histone modifications; new technologies; cancer management
In vivo positioning and covalent modifications of nucleosomes play an important role in epigenetic regulation, but genome-wide studies of positioned nucleosomes and their modifications in human still remain limited.
This paper describes a novel computational framework to efficiently identify positioned nucleosomes and their histone modification profiles from nucleosome-resolution histone modification ChIP-Seq data. We applied the algorithm to histone methylation ChIP-Seq data in human CD4+ T cells and identified over 438,000 positioned nucleosomes, which appear predominantly at functionally important regions such as genes, promoters, DNase I hypersensitive regions, and transcription factor binding sites. Our analysis shows the identified nucleosomes play a key role in epigenetic gene regulation within those functionally important regions via their positioning and histone modifications.
Our method provides an effective framework for studying nucleosome positioning and epigenetic marks in mammalian genomes. The algorithm is open source and available at .
Increasing evidence suggests that epigenetic regulation is key for the maintenance of the stem cell state. Chromatin is the physiological form of eukaryotic genomes and the substrate for epigenetic marking, including DNA methylation, post-translational modifications of histones, and the exchange of core histones with histone variants. The chromatin template undergoes significant reorganization during embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation and somatic cell reprogramming (SCR). Intriguingly, remodeling of the epigenome appears to be a crucial barrier that must be surmounted for efficient SCR. This area of research has gained significant attention due to the importance of ESCs in modeling and treating human disease. Here we review the epigenetic mechanisms that are critical for maintenance of the ESC state, ESC differentiation and SCR. We focus our attention on murine and human ESCs and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and highlight pharmacological approaches used to study or manipulate cell fate where relevant.
The DNA of most vertebrates is depleted in CpG dinucleotides, the target for DNA methylation. The remaining CpGs tend to cluster in regions referred to as CpG islands (CGI). CGI have been useful as marking functionally relevant epigenetic loci for genome studies. For example, CGI are enriched in the promoters of vertebrate genes and thought to play an important role in regulation. Currently, CGI are defined algorithmically as an observed-to-expected ratio (O/E) of CpG greater than 0.6, G+C content greater than 0.5, and usually but not necessarily greater than a certain length. Here we find that the current definition leaves out important CpG clusters associated with epigenetic marks, relevant to development and disease, and does not apply at all to nonvertabrate genomes. We propose an alternative Hidden Markov model-based approach that solves these problems. We fit our model to genomes from 30 species, and the results support a new epigenomic view toward the development of DNA methylation in species diversity and evolution. The O/E of CpG in islands and nonislands segregated closely phylogenetically and showed substantial loss in both groups in animals of greater complexity, while maintaining a nearly constant difference in CpG O/E between islands and nonisland compartments. Lists of CGI for some species are available at http://www.rafalab.org.
Recent advances in genomic technologies now enable a reunion of molecular and evolutionary biology. Researchers investigating naturally living animal populations are thus increasingly able to capitalize upon genomic technologies to connect molecular findings with multiple levels of biological organization. Using this vertical approach in the laboratory, epigenetic gene regulation has emerged as an important mechanism integrating genotype and phenotype. To connect phenotype to population fitness, however, this same vertical approach must now be applied to naturally living populations. A major obstacle to studying epigenetics in noninvasive samples is tissue specificity of epigenetic marks. Here, using the mouse as a proof-of-principle model, we present the first known attempt to validate an epigenetic assay for use in noninvasive samples. Specifically, we compare DNA methylation of the NGFI-A (nerve growth factor-inducible protein A) binding site in the promoter of the glucocorticoid receptor (Nr3c1) gene between central (hippocampal) and peripheral noninvasive (fecal) tissues in juvenile Balb/c mice that had received varying levels of postnatal maternal care. Our results indicate that while hippocampal DNA methylation profiles correspond to maternal behavior, fecal DNA methylation levels do not. Moreover, concordance in methylation levels between these tissues within individuals only emerges after accounting for the effects of postnatal maternal care. Thus, although these findings may be specific to the Nr3c1 gene, we urge caution when interpreting DNA methylation patterns from noninvasive tissues, and offer suggestions for further research in this field.
DNA methylation; fecal samples; glucocorticoid receptor; maternal behavior; mouse
The pathogenic origin of autoimmune diseases can be traced to both genetic susceptibility and epigenetic modifications arising from exposure to the environment. Epigenetic modifications influence gene-expression and alter cellular functions without modifying the genomic sequence. CpG-DNA methylation, histone-tail modifications, and micro-RNAs (miRNAs) are the main epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that are involved in the pathophysiology of autoimmune diseases is essential for the introduction of effective, target-directed, and tolerated therapies. In this review, we summarize recent findings that signify the importance of epigenetic modifications in autoimmune disorders while focusing on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). We discuss future directions in basic research, autoimmune diagnostics, and applied therapy.
Epigenetics refers to the study of heritable changes in gene expression that occur without a change in DNA sequence. Research has shown that epigenetic mechanisms provide an "extra" layer of transcriptional control that regulates how genes are expressed. These mechanisms are critical components in the normal development and growth of cells. Epigenetic abnormalities have been found to be causative factors in cancer, genetic disorders and pediatric syndromes as well as contributing factors in autoimmune diseases and aging. In this review, we examine the basic principles of epigenetic mechanisms and their contribution to human health as well as the clinical consequences of epigenetic errors. In addition, we address the use of epigenetic pathways in new approaches to diagnosis and targeted treatments across the clinical spectrum.
The immunodeficiency, centromere instability and facial anomalies (ICF) syndrome is associated to mutations of the DNA methyl-transferase DNMT3B, resulting in a reduction of enzyme activity. Aberrant expression of immune system genes and hypomethylation of pericentromeric regions accompanied by chromosomal instability were determined as alterations driving the disease phenotype. However, so far only technologies capable to analyze single loci were applied to determine epigenetic alterations in ICF patients. In the current study, we performed whole-genome bisulphite sequencing to assess alteration in DNA methylation at base pair resolution. Genome-wide we detected a decrease of methylation level of 42%, with the most profound changes occurring in inactive heterochromatic regions, satellite repeats and transposons. Interestingly, transcriptional active loci and ribosomal RNA repeats escaped global hypomethylation. Despite a genome-wide loss of DNA methylation the epigenetic landscape and crucial regulatory structures were conserved. Remarkably, we revealed a mislocated activity of mutant DNMT3B to H3K4me1 loci resulting in hypermethylation of active promoters. Functionally, we could associate alterations in promoter methylation with the ICF syndrome immunodeficient phenotype by detecting changes in genes related to the B-cell receptor mediated maturation pathway.
CpG island; DNA methylation; DNA methyltransferase; DNMT3B; X chromosome; histone; immunodeficiency; transposon; whole genome bisulfite sequencing
Epigenetic changes have been suggested to drive prostate cancer (PCa) development and progression. Therefore, in this study, we aimed to identify novel epigenetics-related genes in PCa tissues, and to examine their expression in metastatic PCa cell lines. We analyzed the expression of epigenetics-related genes via a clustering analysis based on gene function in moderately and poorly differentiated PCa glands compared to normal glands of the peripheral zone (prostate proper) from PCa patients using Whole Human Genome Oligo Microarrays. Our analysis identified 12 epigenetics-related genes with a more than 2-fold increase or decrease in expression and a p-value <0.01. In moderately differentiated tumors compared to normal glands of the peripheral zone, we found the genes, TDRD1, IGF2, DICER1, ADARB1, HILS1, GLMN and TRIM27, to be upregulated, whereas TNRC6A and DGCR8 were found to be downregulated. In poorly differentiated tumors, we found TDRD1, ADARB and RBM3 to be upregulated, whereas DGCR8, PIWIL2 and BC069781 were downregulated. Our analysis of the expression level for each gene in the metastatic androgen-sensitive VCaP and LNCaP, and -insensitive PC3 and DU-145 PCa cell lines revealed differences in expression among the cell lines which may reflect the different biological properties of each cell line, and the potential role of each gene at different metastatic sites. The novel epigenetics-related genes that we identified in primary PCa tissues may provide further insight into the role that epigenetic changes play in PCa. Moreover, some of the genes that we identified may play important roles in primary PCa and metastasis, in primary PCa only, or in metastasis only. Follow-up studies are required to investigate the functional role and the role that the expression of these genes play in the outcome and progression of PCa using tissue microarrays.
epigenetics; prostate cancer; cell lines
Analysis across the genome of patterns of DNA methylation reveals a rich landscape of allele-specific epigenetic modification and consequent effects on allele-specific gene expression.
DNA methylation plays an important role in biological processes in human health and disease. Recent technological advances allow unbiased whole-genome DNA methylation (methylome) analysis to be carried out on human cells. Using whole-genome bisulfite sequencing at 24.7-fold coverage (12.3-fold per strand), we report a comprehensive (92.62%) methylome and analysis of the unique sequences in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from the same Asian individual whose genome was deciphered in the YH project. PBMC constitute an important source for clinical blood tests world-wide. We found that 68.4% of CpG sites and <0.2% of non-CpG sites were methylated, demonstrating that non-CpG cytosine methylation is minor in human PBMC. Analysis of the PBMC methylome revealed a rich epigenomic landscape for 20 distinct genomic features, including regulatory, protein-coding, non-coding, RNA-coding, and repeat sequences. Integration of our methylome data with the YH genome sequence enabled a first comprehensive assessment of allele-specific methylation (ASM) between the two haploid methylomes of any individual and allowed the identification of 599 haploid differentially methylated regions (hDMRs) covering 287 genes. Of these, 76 genes had hDMRs within 2 kb of their transcriptional start sites of which >80% displayed allele-specific expression (ASE). These data demonstrate that ASM is a recurrent phenomenon and is highly correlated with ASE in human PBMCs. Together with recently reported similar studies, our study provides a comprehensive resource for future epigenomic research and confirms new sequencing technology as a paradigm for large-scale epigenomics studies.
Epigenetic modifications such as addition of methyl groups to cytosine in DNA play a role in regulating gene expression. To better understand these processes, knowledge of the methylation status of all cytosine bases in the genome (the methylome) is required. DNA methylation can differ between the two gene copies (alleles) in each cell. Such allele-specific methylation (ASM) can be due to parental origin of the alleles (imprinting), X chromosome inactivation in females, and other as yet unknown mechanisms. This may significantly alter the expression profile arising from different allele combinations in different individuals. Using advanced sequencing technology, we have determined the methylome of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Importantly, the PBMC were obtained from the same male Han Chinese individual whose complete genome had previously been determined. This allowed us, for the first time, to study genome-wide differences in ASM. Our analysis shows that ASM in PBMC is higher than can be accounted for by regions known to undergo parent-of-origin imprinting and frequently (>80%) correlates with allele-specific expression (ASE) of the corresponding gene. In addition, our data reveal a rich landscape of epigenomic variation for 20 genomic features, including regulatory, coding, and non-coding sequences, and provide a valuable resource for future studies. Our work further establishes whole-genome sequencing as an efficient method for methylome analysis.
Through epigenetic modifications, specific long-term phenotypic consequences can arise from environmental influence on slowly evolving genomic DNA. Heritable epigenetic information regulates nucleosomal arrangement around DNA and determines patterns of gene silencing or active transcription. One of the greatest challenges in the study of epigenetics as it relates to disease is the enormous diversity of proteins, histone modifications and DNA methylation patterns associated with each unique maladaptive phenotype. This is further complicated by a limitless combination of environmental cues that could alter the epigenome of specific cell types, tissues, organs and systems. In addition, complexities arise from the interpretation of studies describing analogous but not identical processes in flies, plants, worms, yeast, ciliated protozoans, tumor cells and mammals. This review integrates fundamental basic concepts of epigenetics with specific focus on how the epigenetic machinery interacts and operates in continuity to silence or activate gene expression. Topics covered include the connection between DNA methylation, methyl-CpG-binding proteins, transcriptional repression complexes, histone residues, histone modifications that mediate gene repression or relaxation, histone core variant stability, H1 histone linker flexibility, FACT complex, nucleosomal remodeling complexes, HP1 and nuclear lamins.
DNA methyltransferases; methyl-CpG-binding proteins; H2A.Z; high mobility group proteins; SWI-SNF; nucleosomal remodeling complexes; heterochromatin proteins; epigenetics
Epigenetic events play a prominent role during cancer development. This is evident from the fact that almost all cancer types show aberrant DNA methylation. These abnormal DNA methylation levels are not restricted to just a few genes but affect the whole genome. Previous studies have shown genome-wide DNA hypomethylation and gene-specific hypermethylation to be a hallmark of most cancers. Molecules like DNA methyltransferase act as effectors of epigenetic reprogramming. In the present study we have examined the possibility that the reprogramming genes themselves undergo epigenetic modifications reflecting their changed transcriptional status during cancer development. Comparison of DNA methylation status between the normal and cervical cancer samples was carried out at the promoters of a few reprogramming molecules. Our study revealed statistically significant DNA methylation differences within the promoter of DNMT3L. A regulator of de novo DNA methyltransferases DNMT3A and DNMT3B, DNMT3L promoter was found to have lost DNA methylation to varying levels in 14 out of 15 cancer cervix samples analysed. The present study highlights the importance of DNA methylation profile at DNMT3L promoter not only as a promising biomarker for cervical cancer, which is the second most common cancer among women worldwide, but also provides insight into the possible role of DNMT3L in cancer development.
DNMT3L; DNA methylation; cervical cancer; biomarker; nuclear reprogramming