DNA methylation is an epigenetic mark that is critical in determining chromatin accessibility and regulating gene expression. This epigenetic mechanism has an important role in T-cell function. We used genome-wide methylation profiling to characterize the DNA methylome in primary human CD4+ T cells. We found that only 5% of CpG islands are methylated in CD4+ T cells, and that DNA methylation peak density is increased in subtelomeric chromosomal regions. We also found an inverse relationship between methylation peak density and chromosomal length. Our data indicate that DNA methylation in gene promoter regions is not always a repressive epigenetic mark. Indeed, about 27% of methylated genes are actively expressed in CD4+ T cells. We demonstrate that repressive methylation peaks are located closer to the transcription start site (TSS) compared with functionally non-repressive peaks (−893±110 bp versus −1342±218 bp (mean±s.e.m.), P-value <0.05). We also show that both a larger number and an increased CpG island density in promoter sequences predict transcriptional permissiveness of DNA methylation. TSS in the majority of genes with permissive DNA methylation peaks is in DNase I hypersensitive sites, indicating a failure of DNA methylation to induce chromatin inaccessibility in these loci.
CD4+ T cell; DNA methylation; CpG islands; promoter methylation; methylome
Differential DNA methylation is an essential epigenetic signal for gene regulation, development, and disease processes. We mapped DNA methylation patterns of 190 gene promoter regions on chromosome 21 using bisulfite conversion and subclone sequencing in five human cell types. A total of 28,626 subclones were sequenced at high accuracy using (long-read) Sanger sequencing resulting in the measurement of the DNA methylation state of 580427 CpG sites. Our results show that average DNA methylation levels are distributed bimodally with enrichment of highly methylated and unmethylated sequences, both for amplicons and individual subclones, which represent single alleles from individual cells. Within CpG-rich sequences, DNA methylation was found to be anti-correlated with CpG dinucleotide density and GC content, and methylated CpGs are more likely to be flanked by AT-rich sequences. We observed over-representation of CpG sites in distances of 9, 18, and 27 bps in highly methylated amplicons. However, DNA sequence alone is not sufficient to predict an amplicon's DNA methylation status, since 43% of all amplicons are differentially methylated between the cell types studied here. DNA methylation in promoter regions is strongly correlated with the absence of gene expression and low levels of activating epigenetic marks like H3K4 methylation and H3K9 and K14 acetylation. Utilizing the single base pair and single allele resolution of our data, we found that i) amplicons from different parts of a CpG island frequently differ in their DNA methylation level, ii) methylation levels of individual cells in one tissue are very similar, and iii) methylation patterns follow a relaxed site-specific distribution. Furthermore, iv) we identified three cases of allele-specific DNA methylation on chromosome 21. Our data shed new light on the nature of methylation patterns in human cells, the sequence dependence of DNA methylation, and its function as epigenetic signal in gene regulation. Further, we illustrate genotype–epigenotype interactions by showing novel examples of allele-specific methylation.
Epigenetics is defined as the inheritance of changes in gene function without changing the DNA sequence. Epigenetic signals comprise methylation of cytosine bases of the DNA and chemical modifications of the histone proteins. DNA methylation plays important roles in development and disease processes. To investigate the biological role of DNA methylation, we analyzed DNA methylation patterns of 190 gene promoter regions on chromosome 21 in five human cell types. Our results show that average DNA methylation levels are distributed bimodally with enrichment of highly methylated and unmethylated sequences, indicating that DNA methylation acts in a switch-like manner. Consistent with the well-established role of DNA methylation in gene silencing, we found DNA methylation in promoter regions strongly correlated with absence of gene expression and low levels of additional activating epigenetic marks. Although methylation levels of individual cells in one tissue are very similar, we observed differences in DNA methylation when comparing different cell types in 43% of all regions analyzed. This finding is in agreement with a role of DNA methylation in cellular development. We identified three cases of genes that are differentially methylated in both alleles that illustrate the tight interplay of genetic and epigenetic processes.
DNA methylation is a major epigenetic modification important for regulating gene expression and suppressing spurious transcription. Most methods to scan the genome in different tissues for differentially methylated sites have focused on the methylation of CpGs in CpG islands, which are concentrations of CpGs often associated with gene promoters.
Here, we use a methylation profiling strategy that is predominantly responsive to methylation differences outside of CpG islands. The method compares the yield from two samples of size-selected fragments generated by a methylation-sensitive restriction enzyme. We then profile nine different normal tissues from two human donors relative to spleen using a custom array of genomic clones covering the euchromatic portion of human chromosome 1 and representing 8% of the human genome. We observe gross regional differences in methylation states across chromosome 1 between tissues from the same individual, with the most striking differences detected in the comparison of cerebellum and spleen. Profiles of the same tissue from different donors are strikingly similar, as are the profiles of different lobes of the brain. Comparing our results with published gene expression levels, we find that clones exhibiting extreme ratios reflecting low relative methylation are statistically enriched for genes with high expression ratios, and vice versa, in most pairs of tissues examined.
The varied patterns of methylation differences detected between tissues by our methylation profiling method reinforce the potential functional significance of regional differences in methylation levels outside of CpG islands.
DNA methylation, an important type of epigenetic modification in humans, participates in crucial cellular processes, such as embryonic development, X-inactivation, genomic imprinting and chromosome stability. Several platforms have been developed to study genome-wide DNA methylation. Many investigators in the field have chosen the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation microarray for its ability to reliably assess DNA methylation following sodium bisulfite conversion. Here, we analyzed methylation profiles of 489 adult males and 357 adult females generated by the Infinium HumanMethylation450 microarray. Among the autosomal CpG sites that displayed significant methylation differences between the two sexes, we observed a significant enrichment of cross-reactive probes co-hybridizing to the sex chromosomes with more than 94% sequence identity. This could lead investigators to mistakenly infer the existence of significant autosomal sex-associated methylation. Using sequence identity cutoffs derived from the sex methylation analysis, we concluded that 6% of the array probes can potentially generate spurious signals because of co-hybridization to alternate genomic sequences highly homologous to the intended targets. Additionally, we discovered probes targeting polymorphic CpGs that overlapped SNPs. The methylation levels detected by these probes are simply the reflection of underlying genetic polymorphisms but could be misinterpreted as true signals. The existence of probes that are cross-reactive or of target polymorphic CpGs in the Illumina HumanMethylation microarrays can confound data obtained from such microarrays. Therefore, investigators should exercise caution when significant biological associations are found using these array platforms. A list of all cross-reactive probes and polymorphic CpGs identified by us are annotated in this paper.
DNA methylation; CpGs; oligonucleotide probe; Illumina microarray; SNPs; polymorphic CpG; cross-reactive probe
DNA methylation at CpG islands (CGIs) is one of the most intensively studied epigenetic mechanisms. It is fundamental for cellular differentiation and control of transcriptional potential. DNA methylation is involved also in several processes that are central to evolutionary biology, including phenotypic plasticity and evolvability. In this study, we explored the relationship between CpG islands methylation and signatures of selective pressure in Homo Sapiens, using a computational biology approach. By analyzing methylation data of 25 cell lines from the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) Consortium, we compared the DNA methylation of CpG islands in genomic regions under selective pressure with the methylation of CpG islands in the remaining part of the genome. To define genomic regions under selective pressure, we used three different methods, each oriented to provide distinct information about selective events. Independently of the method and of the cell type used, we found evidences of undermethylation of CGIs in human genomic regions under selective pressure. Additionally, by analyzing SNP frequency in CpG islands, we demonstrated that CpG islands in regions under selective pressure show lower genetic variation. Our findings suggest that the CpG islands in regions under selective pressure seem to be somehow more “protected” from methylation when compared with other regions of the genome.
Current DNA methylation assays are limited in the flexibility and efficiency of characterizing a large number of genomic targets. We report a method to specifically capture an arbitrary subset of genomic targets for single-molecule bisulfite sequencing for digital quantification of DNA methylation at single-nucleotide resolution. A set of ~30,000 padlock probes was designed to assess methylation of ~66,000 CpG sites within 2,020 CpG islands on human chromosome 12, chromosome 20, and 34 selected regions. To investigate epigenetic differences associated with dedifferentiation, we compared methylation in three human fibroblast lines and eight human pluripotent stem cell lines. Chromosome-wide methylation patterns were similar among all lines studied, but cytosine methylation was slightly more prevalent in the pluripotent cells than in the fibroblasts. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells appeared to display more methylation than embryonic stem cells. We found 288 regions methylated differently in fibroblasts and pluripotent cells. This targeted approach should be particularly useful for analyzing DNA methylation in large genomes.
DNA methylation is a key component of mammalian gene regulation and the most classical example of an epigenetic mark. DNA methylation patterns are mitotically heritable and stable over time, but they undergo considerable changes in response to cell differentiation, diseases and environmental influences. Several methods have been developed for DNA methylation profiling on a genomic scale. Here, we benchmark four of these methods on two sample pairs, comparing their accuracy and power to detect DNA methylation differences. The results show that all evaluated methods (MeDIP-seq: methylated DNA immunoprecipitation, MethylCap-seq: methylated DNA capture by affinity purification, RRBS: reduced representation bisulfite sequencing, and the Infinium HumanMethylation27 assay) produce accurate DNA methylation data. However, these methods differ in their ability to detect differentially methylated regions between pairs of samples. We highlight strengths and weaknesses of the four methods and give practical recommendations for the design of epigenomic case-control studies.
Epigenome profiling; epigenetics; sequencing; differentially methylated regions; molecular diagnostics; biomarker discovery; cancer
The amnion is a specialized tissue in contact with the amniotic fluid, which is in a constantly changing state. To investigate the importance of epigenetic events in this tissue in the physiology and pathophysiology of pregnancy, we performed genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of human amnion from term (with and without labor) and preterm deliveries. Using the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation27 BeadChip, we identified genes exhibiting differential methylation associated with normal labor and preterm birth. Functional analysis of the differentially methylated genes revealed biologically relevant enriched gene sets. Bisulfite sequencing analysis of the promoter region of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene detected two CpG dinucleotides showing significant methylation differences among the three groups of samples. Hypermethylation of the CpG island of the solute carrier family 30 member 3 (SLC30A3) gene in preterm amnion was confirmed by methylation-specific PCR. This work provides preliminary evidence that DNA methylation changes in the amnion may be at least partially involved in the physiological process of labor and the etiology of preterm birth and suggests that DNA methylation profiles, in combination with other biological data, may provide valuable insight into the mechanisms underlying normal and pathological pregnancies.
DNA methylation in the 5' promoter regions of genes and microRNA (miRNA) regulation at the 3' untranslated regions (UTRs) are two major epigenetic regulation mechanisms in most eukaryotes. Both DNA methylation and miRNA regulation can suppress gene expression and their corresponding protein product; thus, they play critical roles in cellular processes. Although there have been numerous investigations of gene regulation by methylation changes and miRNAs, there is no systematic genome-wide examination of their coordinated effects in any organism.
In this study, we investigated the relationship between promoter methylation at the transcription level and miRNA regulation at the post-transcription level by taking advantage of recently released human methylome data and high quality miRNA and other gene annotation data. We found methylation level in the promoter regions and expression level was negatively correlated. Then, we showed that miRNAs tended to target the genes with a low DNA methylation level in their promoter regions. We further demonstrated that this observed pattern was not attributed to the gene expression level, expression broadness, or the number of transcription factor binding sites. Interestingly, we found miRNA target sites were significantly enriched in the genes located in differentially methylated regions or partially methylated domains. Finally, we explored the features of DNA methylation and miRNA regulation in cancer genes and found cancer genes tended to have low methylation level and more miRNA target sites.
This is the first genome-wide investigation of the combined regulation of gene expression. Our results supported a complementary regulation between DNA methylation (transcriptional level) and miRNA function (post-transcriptional level) in the human genome. The results were helpful for our understanding of the evolutionary forces towards organisms' complexity beyond traditional sequence level investigation.
We applied a solution hybrid selection approach to the enrichment of CpG islands (CGIs) and promoter sequences from the human genome for targeted high-throughput bisulfite sequencing. A single lane of Illumina sequences allowed accurate and quantitative analysis of ~1 million CpGs in more than 21 408 CGIs and more than 15 946 transcriptional regulatory regions. Of the CpGs analyzed, 77–84% fell on or near capture probe sequences; 69–75% fell within CGIs. More than 85% of capture probes successfully yielded quantitative DNA methylation information of targeted regions. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were identified in the 5′-end regulatory regions, as well as the intra- and intergenic regions, particularly in the X-chromosome among the three breast cancer cell lines analyzed. We chose 46 candidate loci (762 CpGs) for confirmation with PCR-based bisulfite sequencing and demonstrated excellent correlation between two data sets. Targeted bisulfite sequencing of three DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) knockout cell lines and the wild-type HCT116 colon cancer cell line revealed a significant decrease in CpG methylation for the DNMT1 knockout and DNMT1, 3B double knockout cell lines, but not in DNMT3B knockout cell line. We demonstrated the targeted bisulfite sequencing approach to be a powerful method to uncover novel aberrant methylation in the cancer epigenome. Since all targets were captured and sequenced as a pool through a series of single-tube reactions, this method can be easily scaled up to deal with a large number of samples.
DNA methylation plays an important role in development and disease. The primary sites of DNA methylation in vertebrates are cytosines in the CpG dinucleotide context, which account for roughly three quarters of the total DNA methylation content in human and mouse cells. While the genomic distribution, inter-individual stability, and functional role of CpG methylation are reasonably well understood, little is known about DNA methylation targeting CpA, CpT, and CpC (non-CpG) dinucleotides. Here we report a comprehensive analysis of non-CpG methylation in 76 genome-scale DNA methylation maps across pluripotent and differentiated human cell types. We confirm non-CpG methylation to be predominantly present in pluripotent cell types and observe a decrease upon differentiation and near complete absence in various somatic cell types. Although no function has been assigned to it in pluripotency, our data highlight that non-CpG methylation patterns reappear upon iPS cell reprogramming. Intriguingly, the patterns are highly variable and show little conservation between different pluripotent cell lines. We find a strong correlation of non-CpG methylation and DNMT3 expression levels while showing statistical independence of non-CpG methylation from pluripotency associated gene expression. In line with these findings, we show that knockdown of DNMTA and DNMT3B in hESCs results in a global reduction of non-CpG methylation. Finally, non-CpG methylation appears to be spatially correlated with CpG methylation. In summary these results contribute further to our understanding of cytosine methylation patterns in human cells using a large representative sample set.
Epigenetic modifications including DNA methylation at the position 5 of the cytosine base provide regulatory information to the genome sequence. The primary target of cytosine methylation in mammals is the CpG dinucleotide. However, previous studies in the mouse and more recent work in humans have highlighted the presence of non-CpG methylation in pluripotent cells. Currently, little is known about the role of this type of DNA methylation. We sought to further characterize non-CpG methylation by employing a comprehensive data set of genome-scale methylation maps across various human cell types. Our analysis reveals that non-CpG methylation varies dramatically between pluripotent cells and is closely linked to CpG methylation. Moreover, we show that depletion of the de novo DNA methyltransferases results in a global reduction of non-CpG methylation levels. Taken together, these findings further advance our understanding of cytosine methylation and describe its distribution among a large number of human cell types.
Majority of CpG dinucleotides in mammalian genomes tend to undergo DNA methylation, but most CpG islands are resistant to such epigenetic modification. Understanding about mechanisms that may lead to the methylation resistance of CpG islands is still very poor.
Using the genome-scale in vivo DNA methylation data from human brain, we investigated the flanking sequence features of methylation-resistant CpG islands, and discovered that there are several over-represented putative Transcription Factor Binding Sites (TFBSs) in methylation-resistant CpG islands, and a specific group of zinc finger protein binding sites are over-represented in boundary regions (∼400 bp) flanking such CpG islands. About 77% of the over-represented putative TFBSs are conserved among human, mouse and rat. We also observed the enrichment of 4 histone methylations in methylation-resistant CpG islands or their boundaries.
Our results suggest a possible mechanism that certain putative zinc finger protein binding sites over-represented in the boundary regions of the methylation-resistant CpG islands may block the spreading of methylation into these islands, and those TFBSs over-represented within the islands may both reinforce the methylation blocking and promote transcription. Some histone modifications may also enhance the immunity of the CpG islands against DNA methylation by augmenting these TFs' binding. We speculate that the dynamical equilibrium between methylation spreading and blocking is likely to be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the relatively stable DNA methylation pattern in human somatic cells.
Expression of imprinted genes is classically associated with differential methylation of specific CpG-rich DNA regions (DMRs). The H19/IGF2 locus is considered a paradigm for epigenetic regulation. In mice, as in humans, the essential H19 DMR—target of the CTCF insulator—is located between the two genes. Here, we performed a pyrosequencing-based quantitative analysis of its CpG methylation in normal human tissues. The quantitative analysis of the methylation level in the H19 DMR revealed three unexpected discrete, individual-specific methylation states. This epigenetic polymorphism was confined to the sixth CTCF binding site while a unique median-methylated profile was found at the third CTCF binding site as well as in the H19 promoter. Monoallelic expression of H19 and IGF2 was maintained independently of the methylation status at the sixth CTCF binding site and the IGF2 DMR2 displayed a median-methylated profile in all individuals and tissues analyzed. Interestingly, the methylation profile was genetically transmitted. Transgenerational inheritance of the H19 methylation profile was compatible with a simple model involving one gene with three alleles. The existence of three individual-specific epigenotypes in the H19 DMR in a non-pathological situation means it is important to reconsider the diagnostic value and functional importance of the sixth CTCF binding site.
During herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) latency, gene expression is tightly repressed except for the latency-associated transcript (LAT). The mechanistic basis for this repression is unknown, but its global nature suggests regulation by an epigenetic mechanism such as DNA methylation. Previous work demonstrated that latent HSV-1 genomes are not extensively methylated, but these studies lacked the resolution to examine methylation of individual CpGs that could repress transcription from individual promoters during latency. To address this point, we employed established models to predict genomic regions with the highest probability of being methylated and, using bisulfite sequencing, analyzed the methylation profiles of these regions. We found no significant methylation of latent DNA isolated from mouse dorsal root ganglia in any of the regions examined, including the ICP4 and LAT promoters. This analysis indicates that methylation is unlikely to play a major role in regulating HSV-1 latent gene expression. Subsequently we focused on differential histone modification as another epigenetic mechanism that could regulate latent transcription. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis of the latent HSV-1 DNA repeat regions demonstrated that a portion of the LAT region is associated with histone H3 acetylated at lysines 9 and 14, consistent with a euchromatic and nonrepressed structure. In contrast, the chromatin associated with the HSV-1 DNA polymerase gene located in the unique long segment was not enriched in H3 acetylated at lysines 9 and 14, suggesting a transcriptionally inactive structure. These data suggest that histone composition may be a major regulatory determinant of HSV latency.
DNA methylation plays critical roles in transcriptional regulation and chromatin remodeling. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) have important implications for development, aging and diseases. Therefore, genome-wide mapping of DMRs across various temporal and spatial methylomes is important in revealing the impact of epigenetic modifications on heritable phenotypic variation. We present a quantitative approach, quantitative differentially methylated regions (QDMRs), to quantify methylation difference and identify DMRs from genome-wide methylation profiles by adapting Shannon entropy. QDMR was applied to synthetic methylation patterns and methylation profiles detected by methylated DNA immunoprecipitation microarray (MeDIP-chip) in human tissues/cells. This approach can give a reasonable quantitative measure of methylation difference across multiple samples. Then DMR threshold was determined from methylation probability model. Using this threshold, QDMR identified 10 651 tissue DMRs which are related to the genes enriched for cell differentiation, including 4740 DMRs not identified by the method developed by Rakyan et al. QDMR can also measure the sample specificity of each DMR. Finally, the application to methylation profiles detected by reduced representation bisulphite sequencing (RRBS) in mouse showed the platform-free and species-free nature of QDMR. This approach provides an effective tool for the high-throughput identification of potential functional regions involved in epigenetic regulation.
Epigenetic processes, such as DNA methylation, are known to regulate tissue specific gene expression. We explored this concept in the placenta to define whether DNA methylation is cell-type specific. Cytotrophoblasts and fibroblasts were isolated from normal midtrimester placentas. Using immunocytochemistry, we demonstrated 95% purity for cytotrophoblasts and 60–70% for fibroblasts. We compared DNA methylation profiles from cytotrophoblasts, fibroblasts and whole placental villi using bisulfite modified genomic DNA hybridized to the Illumina Methylation27 array. Euclidean cluster analysis of the DNA methylation profiles showed two main clusters, one containing cytotrophoblasts and placenta, the other fibroblasts. Differential methylation analysis identified 442 autosomal CpG sites that differed between cytotrophoblasts and fibroblasts, 315 between placenta and fibroblasts and 61 between placenta and cytotrophoblasts. Three candidate methylation differences were validated by targeted pyrosequencing assays. Pyrosequencing assays were developed for CpG sites less methylated in cytotrophoblasts than fibroblasts mapping to the promoter region of the beta subunit of human chorionic gonadotropin 5 (CGB5), as well as two CpG sites mapping to each of two tumor suppressor genes. Our data suggest that epigenetic regulation of gene expression is likely to be a key factor in the functional specificity of cytotrophoblasts. These data are proof of principle for cell-type specific epigenetic regulation in placenta and demonstrate that the methylation profile of placenta is mainly driven by cytotrophoblasts.
cytotrophoblast purification; placental fibroblast purification; DNA methylation; epigenetics; placenta; cell type-specific methylation
The European honeybee, Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae), has a full set of machinery for functional CpG methylation of its genome. A recent study demonstrated that DNA methylation in the honeybee is involved in caste differentiation. In this study, the expression and methylation of the hexamerin 110 gene (Hex110), which encodes a storage protein, was analyzed. High levels of the Hex110 transcript were expressed in both worker and queen larvae. Low levels of this transcript were also detected in adult fat bodies, and the expression level was higher in the queen than in the worker. Bisulfite sequencing revealed that the Hex110 gene is overall methylated at a low level, with a limited number of CpG sites methylated at relatively high levels. These highly methylated sites were exclusively located in the exon regions. The average methylation rate of the Hex110 gene was higher in the adult stage than in the larval stage. Furthermore, several CpG sites were differentially methylated between the worker and queen larvae. These observations suggest that the methylation of the Hex110 gene is regulated at the developmental stage and in a caste-dependent manner.
bisulfite sequencing; caste differentiation; epigenetics; Hex 110
Gene silencing associated with aberrant methylation of promoter region CpG islands is an acquired epigenetic alteration that serves as an alternative to genetic defects in the inactivation of tumor suppressor and other genes in human cancers.
This study describes the methylation status of TMS1/ASC and CASP8 genes in cervical cancer. We also examined the prevalence of TMS1/ASC and CASP8 genes methylation in cervical cancer tissue and none - neo plastic samples in an effort to correlate with smoking habit and clinicopathological features.
Target DNA was modified by sodium bisulfite, converting all unmethylated, but not methylated, cytosines to uracil, and subsequently amplified by Methylation Specific (MS) PCR with primers specific for methylated versus unmethylated DNA. The PCR product was detected by gel electrophoresis and combined with the clinical records of patients.
The methylation pattern of the TMS1/ASC and CASP8 genes in specimens of cervical cancer and adjacent normal tissues were detected [5/80 (6.2%), 3/80 (3.75%)-2/80 (2.5%), 1/80 (1.2%) respectively]. No statistical differences were seen in the extent of differentiation, invasion, pathological type and smoking habit between the methylated and unmethylated tissues (P > 0.05).
The present study conclude that the frequency of TMS1/ASC and CASP8 genes methylation in cervical cancer are rare (< 6%), and have no any critical role in development of cervical cancer.
Methylation; TMS1/ASC; CASP8; cervical cancer
We conducted a genome-wide DNA methylation analysis in CD19+ B-cells from chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients and normal control samples using reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS). The methylation status of 1.8–2.3 million CpGs in the CLL genome was determined; about 45% of these CpGs were located in more than 23,000 CpG islands (CGIs). While global CpG methylation was similar between CLL and normal B-cells, 1764 gene promoters were identified as being differentially methylated in at least one CLL sample when compared with normal B-cell samples. Nineteen percent of the differentially methylated genes were involved in transcriptional regulation. Aberrant hypermethylation was found in all HOX gene clusters and a significant number of WNT signaling pathway genes. Hypomethylation occurred more frequently in the gene body including introns, exons, and 3′-UTRs in CLL. The NFATc1 P2 promoter and first intron was found to be hypomethylated and correlated with upregulation of both NFATc1 RNA and protein expression levels in CLL suggesting that an epigenetic mechanism is involved in the constitutive activation of NFAT activity in CLL cells. This comprehensive DNA methylation analysis will further our understanding of the epigenetic contribution to cellular dysfunction in CLL.
DNA Methylation; NFATc1; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; next-generation sequencing; reduced representation bisulfite sequencing
Epigenetic modification of DNA via methylation is one of the key inventions in eukaryotic evolution. It provides a source for the switching of gene activities, the maintenance of stable phenotypes and the integration of environmental and genomic signals. Although this process is widespread among eukaryotes, both the patterns of methylation and their relevant biological roles not only vary noticeably in different lineages, but often are poorly understood. In addition, the evolutionary origins of DNA methylation in multicellular organisms remain enigmatic. Here we used a new 'epigenetic' model, the social honey bee Apis mellifera, to gain insights into the significance of methylated genes.
We combined microarray profiling of several tissues with genome-scale bioinformatics and bisulfite sequencing of selected genes to study the honey bee methylome. We find that around 35% of the annotated honey bee genes are expected to be methylated at the CpG dinucleotides by a highly conserved DNA methylation system. We show that one unifying feature of the methylated genes in this species is their broad pattern of expression and the associated 'housekeeping' roles. In contrast, genes involved in more stringently regulated spatial or temporal functions are predicted to be un-methylated.
Our data suggest that honey bees use CpG methylation of intragenic regions as an epigenetic mechanism to control the levels of activity of the genes that are broadly expressed and might be needed for conserved core biological processes in virtually every type of cell. We discuss the implications of our findings for genome-scale regulatory network structures and the evolution of the role(s) of DNA methylation in eukaryotes. Our findings are particularly important in the context of the emerging evidence that environmental factors can influence the epigenetic settings of some genes and lead to serious metabolic and behavioural disorders.
Epigenetic control of gene transcription is critical for normal human development and cellular differentiation. While alterations of epigenetic marks such as DNA methylation have been linked to cancers and many other human diseases, interindividual epigenetic variations in normal tissues due to aging, environmental factors, or innate susceptibility are poorly characterized. The plasticity, tissue-specific nature, and variability of gene expression are related to epigenomic states that vary across individuals. Thus, population-based investigations are needed to further our understanding of the fundamental dynamics of normal individual epigenomes. We analyzed 217 non-pathologic human tissues from 10 anatomic sites at 1,413 autosomal CpG loci associated with 773 genes to investigate tissue-specific differences in DNA methylation and to discern how aging and exposures contribute to normal variation in methylation. Methylation profile classes derived from unsupervised modeling were significantly associated with age (P<0.0001) and were significant predictors of tissue origin (P<0.0001). In solid tissues (n = 119) we found striking, highly significant CpG island–dependent correlations between age and methylation; loci in CpG islands gained methylation with age, loci not in CpG islands lost methylation with age (P<0.001), and this pattern was consistent across tissues and in an analysis of blood-derived DNA. Our data clearly demonstrate age- and exposure-related differences in tissue-specific methylation and significant age-associated methylation patterns which are CpG island context-dependent. This work provides novel insight into the role of aging and the environment in susceptibility to diseases such as cancer and critically informs the field of epigenomics by providing evidence of epigenetic dysregulation by age-related methylation alterations. Collectively we reveal key issues to consider both in the construction of reference and disease-related epigenomes and in the interpretation of potentially pathologically important alterations.
The causes and extent of tissue-specific interindividual variation in human epigenomes are underappreciated and, hence, poorly characterized. We surveyed over 200 carefully annotated human tissue samples from ten anatosites at 1,413 CpGs for methylation alterations to appraise the nature of phenotypically, and hence potentially clinically important epigenomic alterations. Within tissue types, across individuals, we found variation in methylation that was significantly related to aging and environmental exposures such as tobacco smoking. Individual variation in age- and exposure-related methylation may significantly contribute to increased susceptibility to several diseases. As the NIH–funded HapMap project is critically contributing to annotating the human reference genome defining normal genetic variability, our work raises key issues to consider in the construction of reference epigenomes. It is well recognized that understanding genetic variation is essential to understanding disease. Our work, and the known interplay of epigenetics and genetics, makes it equally clear that a more complete characterization of epigenetic variation and its sources must be accomplished to reach the goal of a complete understanding of disease. Additional research is absolutely necessary to define the mechanisms controlling epigenomic variation. We have begun to lay the foundations for essential normal tissue controls for comparison to diseased tissue, which will allow the identification of the most crucial disease-related alterations and provide more robust targets for novel treatments.
Cytosine DNA methylation is an important epigenetic modification termed as the fifth base that functions in diverse processes. Till now, the genome-wide DNA methylation maps of many organisms has been reported, such as human, Arabidopsis, rice and silkworm, but the methylation pattern of bird remains rarely studied. Here we show the genome-wide DNA methylation map of bird, using the chicken as a model organism and an immunocapturing approach followed by high-throughput sequencing. In both of the red jungle fowl and the avian broiler, DNA methylation was described separately for the liver and muscle tissue. Generally, chicken displays analogous methylation pattern with that of animals and plants. DNA methylation is enriched in the gene body regions and the repetitive sequences, and depleted in the transcription start site (TSS) and the transcription termination site (TTS). Most of the CpG islands in the chicken genome are kept in unmethylated state. Promoter methylation is negatively correlated with the gene expression level, indicating its suppressive role in regulating gene transcription. This work contributes to our understanding of epigenetics in birds.
DNA methylation contributes to the chromatin conformation that represses transcription of human papillomavirus type16 (HPV-16), which is prevalent in the etiology of cervical carcinoma. In an effort to clarify the role of this phenomenon in the regulation and carcinogenicity of HPV-16, 115 clinical samples were studied to establish the methylation patterns of the 19 CpG dinucleotides within the long control region and part of the L1 gene by bisulfite modification, PCR amplification, DNA cloning, and sequencing. We observed major heterogeneities between clones from different samples as well as between clones from individual samples. The methylation frequency of CpGs was measured at 14.5%. In addition, 0.21 and 0.23%, respectively, of the CpA and CpT sites, indicators of de novo methylation, were methylated. Methylation frequencies exceeded 30% in the CpGs overlapping with the L1 gene and were about 10% for most other positions. A CpG site located in the linker between two nucleosomes positioned over the enhancer and promoter of HPV-16 had minimal methylation. This region forms part of the HPV replication origin and is close to binding sites of master-regulators of transcription during epithelial differentiation. Methylation of most sites was highest in carcinomas, possibly due to tandem repetition and chromosomal integration of HPV-16 DNA. Methylation was lowest in dysplasia, likely reflecting the transcriptional activity in these infections. Our data document the efficient targeting of HPV genomes by the epithelial methylation machinery, possibly as a cellular defense mechanism, and suggest involvement of methylation in HPV oncogene expression and the early-late switch.
Background: There is increasing interest in DNA methylation and in its implication in transcriptional gene silencing, a phenomenon commonly seen in human cancer.
Aims: To develop a new method that would allow quantitative DNA methylation analysis in a large range of clinical samples, independently of the processing protocol.
Methods: A methylation sensitive dot blot assay (MS-DBA) was developed, which is quantitative and combines bisulfite modification, PCR amplification using primers without CpG sites, and dot blot analysis with two probes specific for methylated and unmethylated DNA.
Results: The established method was used to study methylation of the hTERT, APC, and p16 promoter regions in microdissected, formalin fixed and paraffin wax embedded tissues.
Conclusions: MS-DBA is a sensitive, specific, and quantitative approach to analyse DNA methylation in a variety of frozen or fixed tissues. Moreover, MS-DBA is rapid, easy to perform, and permits the screening of a large panel of samples in one experiment. Thus, MS-DBA can facilitate the routine analysis of DNA methylation in all types of clinical samples.
Cytosine methylation, an epigenetic modification of DNA, is a target of growing interest for developing high throughput profiling technologies. Here we introduce two new, complementary techniques for cytosine methylation profiling utilizing next generation sequencing technology: bisulfite padlock probes (BSPPs) and methyl sensitive cut counting (MSCC). In the first method, we designed a set of ~10,000 BSPPs distributed over the ENCODE pilot project regions to take advantage of existing expression and chromatin immunoprecipitation data. We observed a pattern of low promoter methylation coupled with high gene body methylation in highly expressed genes. Using the second method, MSCC, we gathered genome-scale data for 1.4 million HpaII sites and confirmed that gene body methylation in highly expressed genes is a consistent phenomenon over the entire genome. Our observations highlight the usefulness of techniques which are not inherently or intentionally biased in favor of only profiling particular subsets like CpG islands or promoter regions.