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1.  Identification and systematic annotation of tissue-specific differentially methylated regions using the Illumina 450k array 
DNA methylation has been recognized as a key mechanism in cell differentiation. Various studies have compared tissues to characterize epigenetically regulated genomic regions, but due to differences in study design and focus there still is no consensus as to the annotation of genomic regions predominantly involved in tissue-specific methylation. We used a new algorithm to identify and annotate tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) from Illumina 450k chip data for four peripheral tissues (blood, saliva, buccal swabs and hair follicles) and six internal tissues (liver, muscle, pancreas, subcutaneous fat, omentum and spleen with matched blood samples).
The majority of tDMRs, in both relative and absolute terms, occurred in CpG-poor regions. Further analysis revealed that these regions were associated with alternative transcription events (alternative first exons, mutually exclusive exons and cassette exons). Only a minority of tDMRs mapped to gene-body CpG islands (13%) or CpG islands shores (25%) suggesting a less prominent role for these regions than indicated previously. Implementation of ENCODE annotations showed enrichment of tDMRs in DNase hypersensitive sites and transcription factor binding sites. Despite the predominance of tissue differences, inter-individual differences in DNA methylation in internal tissues were correlated with those for blood for a subset of CpG sites in a locus- and tissue-specific manner.
We conclude that tDMRs preferentially occur in CpG-poor regions and are associated with alternative transcription. Furthermore, our data suggest the utility of creating an atlas cataloguing variably methylated regions in internal tissues that correlate to DNA methylation measured in easy accessible peripheral tissues.
PMCID: PMC3750594  PMID: 23919675
Differentially methylated region; Illumina 450k; Annotation; Algorithm; Tissue
2.  Extensive epigenetic reprogramming in human somatic tissues between fetus and adult 
Development of human tissue is influenced by a combination of intrinsic biological signals and extrinsic environmental stimuli, both of which are mediated by epigenetic regulation, including DNA methylation. However, little is currently known of the normal acquisition or loss of epigenetic markers during fetal and postnatal development.
The DNA methylation status of over 1000 CpGs located in the regulatory regions of nearly 800 genes was evaluated in five somatic tissues (brain, kidney, lung, muscle and skin) from eight normal second-trimester fetuses. Tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) were identified in 195 such loci. However, comparison with corresponding data from trisomic fetuses (five trisomy 21 and four trisomy 18) revealed relatively few DNA methylation differences associated with trisomy, despite such conditions having a profound effect on development. Of interest, only 17% of the identified fetal tDMRs were found to maintain this same tissue-specific DNA methylation in adult tissues. Furthermore, 10% of the sites analyzed, including sites associated with imprinted genes, had a DNA methylation difference of >40% between fetus and adult. This plasticity of DNA methylation over development was further confirmed by comparison with similar data from embryonic stem cells, with the most altered methylation levels being linked to domains with bivalent histone modifications.
Most fetal tDMRs seem to reflect transient DNA methylation changes during development rather than permanent epigenetic signatures. The extensive tissue-specific and developmental-stage specific nature of DNA methylation will need to be elucidated to identify abnormal patterns of DNA methylation associated with abnormal development or disease.
PMCID: PMC3112062  PMID: 21545704
3.  Quantitative analysis of human tissue-specific differences in methylation 
Tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) have been identified and implicated for their indispensable involvement in mammalian development and tissue differentiation. In this report, a quantitative DNA methylation analysis was performed for 13 human orthologous regions of recently confirmed mouse tDMRs by using Sequenom Mass Array, by which bisulfite-treated fragments are quantitatively detected using time of flight masspectroscopy analysis. Eight regions were shown as tDMRs in various tissues from three independent individuals. Testis DNA samples from eight individuals were also analyzed for methylation. Interestingly, there is evidence that the DNA methylation level is divergent among individuals. DNA methylation levels of five testis-specific DMRs were significantly inversely correlated with the number of spermatocytes. However, a positive correlation was seen at tDMRs located near the TRIM38 and CASZ1 genes. Our results indicate that tDMRs are conserved between mouse and human and may have an important role in regulating tissue function, differentiation and aging.
PMCID: PMC2613005  PMID: 18805397
4.  Buccals are likely to be a more informative surrogate tissue than blood for epigenome-wide association studies 
Epigenetics  2013;8(4):445-454.
There is increasing evidence that interindividual epigenetic variation is an etiological factor in common human diseases. Such epigenetic variation could be genetic or non-genetic in origin, and epigenome-wide association studies (EWASs) are underway for a wide variety of diseases/phenotypes. However, performing an EWAS is associated with a range of issues not typically encountered in genome-wide association studies (GWASs), such as the tissue to be analyzed. In many EWASs, it is not possible to analyze the target tissue in large numbers of live humans, and consequently surrogate tissues are employed, most commonly blood. But there is as yet no evidence demonstrating that blood is more informative than buccal cells, the other easily accessible tissue. To assess the potential of buccal cells for use in EWASs, we performed a comprehensive analysis of a buccal cell methylome using whole-genome bisulfite sequencing. Strikingly, a buccal vs. blood comparison reveals > 6X as many hypomethylated regions in buccal. These tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) are strongly enriched for DNaseI hotspots. Almost 75% of these tDMRs are not captured by commonly used DNA methylome profiling platforms such as Reduced Representational Bisulfite Sequencing and the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip, and they also display distinct genomic properties. Buccal hypo-tDMRs show a statistically significant enrichment near SNPs associated to disease identified through GWASs. Finally, we find that, compared with blood, buccal hypo-tDMRs show significantly greater overlap with hypomethylated regions in other tissues. We propose that for non-blood based diseases/phenotypes, buccal will be a more informative tissue for EWASs.
PMCID: PMC3674053  PMID: 23538714
BS-seq; buccal; complex disease; epigenome wide association study; human
5.  Generation of a genomic tiling array of the human Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) and its application for DNA methylation analysis 
BMC Medical Genomics  2008;1:19.
The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is essential for human immunity and is highly associated with common diseases, including cancer. While the genetics of the MHC has been studied intensively for many decades, very little is known about the epigenetics of this most polymorphic and disease-associated region of the genome.
To facilitate comprehensive epigenetic analyses of this region, we have generated a genomic tiling array of 2 Kb resolution covering the entire 4 Mb MHC region. The array has been designed to be compatible with chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP), array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) and expression profiling, including of non-coding RNAs. The array comprises 7832 features, consisting of two replicates of both forward and reverse strands of MHC amplicons and appropriate controls.
Using MeDIP, we demonstrate the application of the MHC array for DNA methylation profiling and the identification of tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs). Based on the analysis of two tissues and two cell types, we identified 90 tDMRs within the MHC and describe their characterisation.
A tiling array covering the MHC region was developed and validated. Its successful application for DNA methylation profiling indicates that this array represents a useful tool for molecular analyses of the MHC in the context of medical genomics.
PMCID: PMC2430202  PMID: 18513384
6.  Tissue specific differentially methylated regions (TDMR): Changes in DNA methylation during development 
Genomics  2008;93(2):130-139.
Tissue specific differentially methylated regions (TDMRs) were identified and localized in the mouse genome using second generation virtual RLGS (vRLGS). Sequenom MassARRAY quantitative methylation analysis was used to confirm and determine the fine structure of tissue specific differences in DNA methylation. TDMRs have a broad distribution of locations to intragenic and intergenic regions including both CpG islands, and non-CpG islands regions. Somewhat surprising, there is a strong bias for TDMR location in non-promoter intragenic regions. Although some TDMRs are within or close to repeat sequences, overall they are less frequently associated with repetitive elements than expected from a random distribution. Many TDMRs are methylated at early developmental stages, but unmethylated later, suggesting active or passive demethylation, or expansions of populations of cells with unmethylated TDMRs. This is notable during postnatal testis differentiation where many testis-specific TDMRs become progressively “demethylated”. These results suggest that methylation changes during development are dynamic, involve demethylation and methylation, and may occur at late stages of embryonic development or even postnatally.
PMCID: PMC2658018  PMID: 18952162
DNA; Methylation; Epigenesis; Genetic; Gene silencing; Embryonic stem cells; Developmental biology; Mouse
7.  A tripartite paternally methylated region within the Gpr1-Zdbf2 imprinted domain on mouse chromosome 1 identified by meDIP-on-chip 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(15):4929-4945.
The parent-of-origin specific expression of imprinted genes relies on DNA methylation of CpG-dinucleotides at differentially methylated regions (DMRs) during gametogenesis. To date, four paternally methylated DMRs have been identified in screens based on conventional approaches. These DMRs are linked to the imprinted genes H19, Gtl2 (IG-DMR), Rasgrf1 and, most recently, Zdbf2 which encodes zinc finger, DBF-type containing 2. In this study, we applied a novel methylated-DNA immunoprecipitation-on-chip (meDIP-on-chip) method to genomic DNA from mouse parthenogenetic- and androgenetic-derived stem cells and sperm and identified 458 putative DMRs. This included the majority of known DMRs. We further characterized the paternally methylated Zdbf2/ZDBF2 DMR. In mice, this extensive germ line DMR spanned 16 kb and possessed an unusual tripartite structure. Methylation was dependent on DNA methyltransferase 3a (Dnmt3a), similar to H19 DMR and IG-DMR. In both humans and mice, the adjacent gene, Gpr1/GPR1, which encodes a G-protein-coupled receptor 1 protein with transmembrane domain, was also imprinted and paternally expressed. The Gpr1-Zdbf2 domain was most similar to the Rasgrf1 domain as both DNA methylation and the actively expressed allele were in cis on the paternal chromosome. This work demonstrates the effectiveness of meDIP-on-chip as a technique for identifying DMRs.
PMCID: PMC2926594  PMID: 20385583
8.  Resources for methylome analysis suitable for gene knockout studies of potential epigenome modifiers 
GigaScience  2012;1:3.
Methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) is a popular enrichment based method and can be combined with sequencing (termed MeDIP-seq) to interrogate the methylation status of cytosines across entire genomes. However, quality control and analysis of MeDIP-seq data have remained to be a challenge.
We report genome-wide DNA methylation profiles of wild type (wt) and mutant mouse cells, comprising 3 biological replicates of Thymine DNA glycosylase (Tdg) knockout (KO) embryonic stem cells (ESCs), in vitro differentiated neural precursor cells (NPCs) and embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). The resulting 18 methylomes were analysed with MeDUSA (Methylated DNA Utility for Sequence Analysis), a novel MeDIP-seq computational analysis pipeline for the identification of differentially methylated regions (DMRs). The observed increase of hypermethylation in MEF promoter-associated CpG islands supports a previously proposed role for Tdg in the protection of regulatory regions from epigenetic silencing. Further analysis of genes and regions associated with the DMRs by gene ontology, pathway, and ChIP analyses revealed further insights into Tdg function, including an association of TDG with low-methylated distal regulatory regions.
We demonstrate that MeDUSA is able to detect both large-scale changes between cells from different stages of differentiation and also small but significant changes between the methylomes of cells that only differ in the KO of a single gene. These changes were validated utilising publicly available datasets and confirm TDG's function in the protection of regulatory regions from epigenetic silencing.
PMCID: PMC3617451  PMID: 23587164
Methylome; MeDIP-seq; Epigenetics; Epigenomics; DNA methylation; Computational pipeline; MeDUSA
9.  Aberrant methylation of the TDMR of the GTF2A1L promoter does not affect fertilisation rates via TESE in patients with hypospermatogenesis 
Asian Journal of Andrology  2013;15(5):634-639.
Increasing evidence shows a relationship between epigenetic regulation and male infertility. The GTF2A1L gene promoter contains the DNA methylation site of a tissue-specific differentially methylated region (TDMR). Eighty-six patients with non-obstructive azoospermia were assessed for the DNA methylation state of CpG islands in the GTF2A1L promoter using testicular genomic DNA. Based on histological criteria, 26 of the 86 patients had normal spermatogenesis (controls), 17 had hypospermatogenesis and 26 had a Sertoli cell-only phenotype or tubular sclerosis. GTF2A1L TDMR methylation was significantly lower in testes DNA from control samples than from hypospermatogenic samples (P=0.029). Patients with hypospermatogenesis were divided into two subgroups: high DNA methylation (HM, n=5) and low DNA methylation (LM, n=12). The GTF2A1L TDMR methylation rate differed significantly between the HM and LM groups (P=0.0019), and GTF2A1L expression was significantly higher among the LM than in the HM patients (P=0.023). High TDMR methylation was correlated with low GTF2A1L gene expression levels. Both groups demonstrated relatively good outcomes with respect to sperm retrieval, fertilisation, pregnancy and childbirth rates. We observed that aberrant GTF2A1L gene expression was not correlated with fertilisation rates. The testicular sperm extraction (TESE) technique may be used to overcome male infertility due to aberrant TDMR methylation.
PMCID: PMC3881655  PMID: 23770943
ALF; azoospermia; CpG island; hypospermatogenesis; MALDI-TOF MS; testicular sperm extraction (TESE)
10.  Genome-wide DNA methylation analyses in the brain reveal four differentially methylated regions between humans and non-human primates 
The highly improved cognitive function is the most significant change in human evolutionary history. Recently, several large-scale studies reported the evolutionary roles of DNA methylation; however, the role of DNA methylation on brain evolution is largely unknown.
To test if DNA methylation has contributed to the evolution of human brain, with the use of MeDIP-Chip and SEQUENOM MassARRAY, we conducted a genome-wide analysis to identify differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in the brain between humans and rhesus macaques. We first identified a total of 150 candidate DMRs by the MeDIP-Chip method, among which 4 DMRs were confirmed by the MassARRAY analysis. All 4 DMRs are within or close to the CpG islands, and a MIR3 repeat element was identified in one DMR, but no repeat sequence was observed in the other 3 DMRs. For the 4 DMR genes, their proteins tend to be conserved and two genes have neural related functions. Bisulfite sequencing and phylogenetic comparison among human, chimpanzee, rhesus macaque and rat suggested several regions of lineage specific DNA methylation, including a human specific hypomethylated region in the promoter of K6IRS2 gene.
Our study provides a new angle of studying human brain evolution and understanding the evolutionary role of DNA methylation in the central nervous system. The results suggest that the patterns of DNA methylation in the brain are in general similar between humans and non-human primates, and only a few DMRs were identified.
PMCID: PMC3483258  PMID: 22899776
DNA methylation; Brain evolution; Primates
11.  QDMR: a quantitative method for identification of differentially methylated regions by entropy 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(9):e58.
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.
PMCID: PMC3089487  PMID: 21306990
12.  Cell-Type Specific DNA Methylation Patterns Define Human Breast Cellular Identity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52299.
DNA methylation plays a role in a variety of biological processes including embryonic development, imprinting, X-chromosome inactivation, and stem cell differentiation. Tissue specific differential methylation has also been well characterized. We sought to extend these studies to create a map of differential DNA methylation between different cell types derived from a single tissue. Using three pairs of isogenic human mammary epithelial and fibroblast cells, promoter region DNA methylation was characterized using MeDIP coupled to microarray analysis. Comparison of DNA methylation between these cell types revealed nearly three thousand cell-type specific differentially methylated regions (ctDMRs). MassARRAY was performed upon 87 ctDMRs to confirm and quantify differential DNA methylation. Each of the examined regions exhibited statistically significant differences ranging from 10–70%. Gene ontology analysis revealed the overrepresentation of many transcription factors involved in developmental processes. Additionally, we have shown that ctDMRs are associated with histone related epigenetic marks and are often aberrantly methylated in breast cancer. Overall, our data suggest that there are thousands of ctDMRs which consistently exhibit differential DNA methylation and may underlie cell type specificity in human breast tissue. In addition, we describe the pathways affected by these differences and provide insight into the molecular mechanisms and physiological overlap between normal cellular differentiation and breast carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3527522  PMID: 23284978
13.  DNA methylation profile dynamics of tissue-dependent and differentially methylated regions during mouse brain development 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:82.
Tissues and their component cells have unique DNA methylation profiles comprising DNA methylation patterns of tissue-dependent and differentially methylated regions (T-DMRs). Previous studies reported that DNA methylation plays crucial roles in cell differentiation and development. Here, we investigated the genome-wide DNA methylation profiles of mouse neural progenitors derived from different developmental stages using HpyCH4IV, a methylation-sensitive restriction enzyme that recognizes ACGT residues, which are uniformly distributed across the genome.
Using a microarray-based genome-wide DNA methylation analysis system focusing on 8.5-kb regions around transcription start sites (TSSs), we analyzed the DNA methylation profiles of mouse neurospheres derived from telencephalons at embryonic days 11.5 (E11.5NSph) and 14.5 (E14.5NSph) and the adult brain (AdBr). We identified T-DMRs with different DNA methylation statuses between E11.5NSph and E14.5NSph at genes involved in neural development and/or associated with neurological disorders in humans, such as Dclk1, Nrcam, Nfia, and Ntng1. These T-DMRs were located not only within 2 kb but also distal (several kbs) from the TSSs, and those hypomethylated in E11.5NSph tended to be in CpG island (CGI-) associated genes. Most T-DMRs that were hypomethylated in neurospheres were also hypomethylated in the AdBr. Interestingly, among the T-DMRs hypomethylated in the progenitors, there were T-DMRs that were hypermethylated in the AdBr. Although certain genes, including Ntng1, had hypermethylated T-DMRs 5′ upstream, we identified hypomethylated T-DMRs in the AdBr, 3′ downstream from their TSSs. This observation could explain why Ntng1 was highly expressed in the AdBr despite upstream hypermethylation.
Mouse adult brain DNA methylation and gene expression profiles could be attributed to developmental dynamics of T-DMRs in neural-related genes.
PMCID: PMC3599493  PMID: 23387509
DNA methylation; Tissue-dependent and differentially methylated region; Neural progenitor cells
14.  Identification of Novel Imprinted Differentially Methylated Regions by Global Analysis of Human-Parthenogenetic-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells 
Stem Cell Reports  2013;1(1):79-89.
Parental imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon by which genes are expressed in a monoallelic fashion, according to their parent of origin. DNA methylation is considered the hallmark mechanism regulating parental imprinting. To identify imprinted differentially methylated regions (DMRs), we compared the DNA methylation status between multiple normal and parthenogenetic human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) by performing reduced representation bisulfite sequencing. Our analysis identified over 20 previously unknown imprinted DMRs in addition to the known DMRs. These include DMRs in loci associated with human disorders, and a class of intergenic DMRs that do not seem to be related to gene expression. Furthermore, the study showed some DMRs to be unstable, liable to differentiation or reprogramming. A comprehensive comparison between mouse and human DMRs identified almost half of the imprinted DMRs to be species specific. Taken together, our data map novel DMRs in the human genome, their evolutionary conservation, and relation to gene expression.
•Imprinted DMRs were identified by comparing normal and parthenogenetic human PSCs•The study showed some DMRs to be unstable, liable to differentiation or reprogramming•Over 20 imprinted DMRs, including a class of intergenic DMRs, were found•Comparison between mouse and human DMRs identified about half to be species specific
PMCID: PMC3757747  PMID: 24052944
15.  DNA methylation dynamics at imprinted genes during bovine pre-implantation embryo development 
In mammals, maternal differentially methylated regions (DMRs) acquire DNA methylation during the postnatal growth stage of oogenesis, with paternal DMRs acquiring DNA methylation in the perinatal prospermatagonia. Following fusion of the male and female gametes, it is widely accepted that murine DNA methylation marks at the DMRs of imprinted genes are stable through embryogenesis and early development, until they are reprogrammed in primordial germ cells. However, the DNA methylation dynamics at DMRs of bovine imprinted genes during early stages of development remains largely unknown. The objective of this investigation was to analyse the methylation dynamics at imprinted gene DMRs during bovine embryo development, from blastocyst stage until implantation.
To this end, pyrosequencing technology was used to quantify DNA methylation at DMR-associated CpG dinucleotides of six imprinted bovine genes (SNRPN, MEST, IGF2R, PLAGL1, PEG10 and H19) using bisulfite-modified genomic DNA isolated from individual blastocysts (Day 7); ovoid embryos (Day 14); filamentous embryos (Day 17) and implanting conceptuses (Day 25). For all genes, the degree of DNA methylation was most variable in Day 7 blastocysts compared to later developmental stages (P < 0.05). Furthermore, mining of RNA-seq transcriptomic data and western blot analysis revealed a specific window of expression of DNA methylation machinery genes (including DNMT3A, DNMT3B, TRIM28/KAP1 and DNMT1) and proteins (DNMT3A, DNMT3A2 and DNMT3B) by bovine embryos coincident with imprint stabilization.
The findings of this study suggest that the DNA methylation status of bovine DMRs might be variable during the early stages of embryonic development, possibly requiring an active period of imprint stabilization.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12861-015-0060-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4363183  PMID: 25881176
Embryo; DNA methylation; Genomic imprinting; Bovine; Preimplantation embryos; Epigenetic reprogramming; DNA methyltransferases
16.  Inter-individual methylation variability in differentially methylated regions between maternal whole blood and first trimester CVS 
DNA methylation is the most studied form of epigenetic regulation, a process by which chromatin composition and transcription factor binding is altered to influence tissue specific gene expression and differentiation. Such tissue specific methylation patterns are investigated as biomarkers for cancer and cell-free fetal DNA using various methodologies.
We have utilized methylation DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) and real-time quantitative PCR to investigate the inter-individual methylation variability of differentially methylated regions (DMRs) on chromosomes 18 and 21. We have characterized 15 newly selected and seven previously validated DMRs in 50, 1st trimester Chorionic villus samplings (CVS) and 50 female non-pregnant peripheral blood (WBF) samples. qPCR results from MeDIP and genomic DNA (Input) assays were used to calculate fold enrichment values for each DMR. For all regions tested, enrichment was higher in CVS than in WBF samples with mean enrichments ranging from 0.22 to 6.4 and 0.017 to 1 respectively. Despite inter-individual variability, mean enrichment values for CVS were significantly different than those for WBF in all DMRs tested (p < 0.01). This observation is reinforced by the absence of overlap in CVS and WBF enrichment value distributions for 15 of 22 DMRs.
Our work provides an expansion in the biomarker panel available for non-invasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD) using the MeDIP-qPCR methology for Down syndrome and can eventually provide the starting point towards the development for assays towards the detection of Edwards syndrome. Furthermore, our data indicate that inter-experimental and inter-individual variation in methylation is apparent, yet the difference in methylation status across tissues is large enough to allow for robust tissue specific methylation identification.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13039-014-0073-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4243368  PMID: 25426166
Non-invasive prenatal diagnosis; Inter-individual variability; Differentially methylated regions; MeDIP
17.  Defining Differentially Methylated Regions Specific for the Acquisition of Pluripotency and Maintenance in Human Pluripotent Stem Cells via Microarray 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e108350.
Epigenetic regulation is critical for the maintenance of human pluripotent stem cells. It has been shown that pluripotent stem cells, such as embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, appear to have a hypermethylated status compared with differentiated cells. However, the epigenetic differences in genes that maintain stemness and regulate reprogramming between embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells remain unclear. Additionally, differential methylation patterns of induced pluripotent stem cells generated using diverse methods require further study.
Here, we determined the DNA methylation profiles of 10 human cell lines, including 2 ESC lines, 4 virally derived iPSC lines, 2 episomally derived iPSC lines, and the 2 parental cell lines from which the iPSCs were derived using Illumina's Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip. The iPSCs exhibited a hypermethylation status similar to that of ESCs but with distinct differences from the parental cells. Genes with a common methylation pattern between iPSCs and ESCs were classified as critical factors for stemness, whereas differences between iPSCs and ESCs suggested that iPSCs partly retained the parental characteristics and gained de novo methylation aberrances during cellular reprogramming. No significant differences were identified between virally and episomally derived iPSCs. This study determined in detail the de novo differential methylation signatures of particular stem cell lines.
This study describes the DNA methylation profiles of human iPSCs generated using both viral and episomal methods, the corresponding somatic cells, and hESCs. Series of ss-DMRs and ES-iPS-DMRs were defined with high resolution. Knowledge of this type of epigenetic information could be used as a signature for stemness and self-renewal and provides a potential method for selecting optimal pluripotent stem cells for human regenerative medicine.
PMCID: PMC4177110  PMID: 25250679
18.  Genome-wide survey reveals dynamic widespread tissue-specific changes in DNA methylation during development 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:231.
Changes in DNA methylation in the mammalian genome during development are frequent events and play major roles regulating gene expression and other developmental processes. It is necessary to identify these events so that we may understand how these changes affect normal development and how aberrant changes may impact disease.
In this study Methylated DNA ImmunoPrecipitation (MeDIP) was used in conjunction with a NimbleGen promoter plus CpG island (CpGi) array to identify Tissue and Developmental Stage specific Differentially Methylated DNA Regions (T-DMRs and DS-DMRs) on a genome-wide basis. Four tissues (brain, heart, liver, and testis) from C57BL/6J mice were analyzed at three developmental stages (15 day embryo, E15; new born, NB; 12 week adult, AD). Almost 5,000 adult T-DMRs and 10,000 DS-DMRs were identified. Surprisingly, almost all DS-DMRs were tissue specific (i.e. methylated in at least one tissue and unmethylated in one or more tissues). In addition our results indicate that many DS-DMRs are methylated at early development stages (E15 and NB) but are unmethylated in adult. There is a very strong bias for testis specific methylation in non-CpGi promoter regions (94%). Although the majority of T-DMRs and DS-DMRs tended to be in non-CpGi promoter regions, a relatively large number were also located in CpGi in promoter, intragenic and intergenic regions (>15% of the 15,979 CpGi on the array).
Our data suggests the vast majority of unique sequence DNA methylation has tissue specificity, that demethylation has a prominent role in tissue differentiation, and that DNA methylation has regulatory roles in alternative promoter selection and in non-promoter regions. Overall, our studies indicate changes in DNA methylation during development are a dynamic, widespread, and tissue-specific process involving both DNA methylation and demethylation.
PMCID: PMC3118215  PMID: 21569359
19.  Methylation and Transcripts Expression at the Imprinted GNAS Locus in Human Embryonic and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells and Their Derivatives 
Stem Cell Reports  2014;3(3):432-443.
Data from the literature indicate that genomic imprint marks are disturbed in human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs). GNAS is an imprinted locus that produces one biallelic (Gsα) and four monoallelic (NESP55, GNAS-AS1, XLsα, and A/B) transcripts due to differential methylation of their promoters (DMR). To document imprinting at the GNAS locus in PSCs, we studied GNAS locus DMR methylation and transcript (NESP55, XLsα, and A/B) expression in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) derived from two human fibroblasts and their progenies. Results showed that (1) methylation at the GNAS locus DMRs is DMR and cell line specific, (2) changes in allelic transcript expression can be independent of a change in allele-specific DNA methylation, and (3) interestingly, methylation at A/B DMR is correlated with A/B transcript expression. These results indicate that these models are valuable to study the mechanisms controlling GNAS methylation, factors involved in transcript expression, and possibly mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of pseudohypoparathyroidism type 1B.
•GNAS locus methylation is DMR and cell line specific in human pluripotent stem cells•Allelic transcript expression can be independent of allele-specific DNA methylation•A/B transcript expression, a key for PHP1B, is correlated with A/B DMR methylation
GNAS, a complex imprinted locus, produces biallelic (Gsα) and monoallelic (NESP55, GNAS-AS1, XLsα, and A/B) transcripts. In this article, Silve and colleagues show that hESCs and hiPSCs are valuable models to study mechanisms controlling GNAS methylation, regulation of transcript expression, and possibly mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of PHP1B, a constellation of rare diseases caused by GNAS methylation defects.
PMCID: PMC4266011  PMID: 25241742
20.  Quantitative analysis of DNA methylation at all human imprinted regions reveals preservation of epigenetic stability in adult somatic tissue 
Genes subject to genomic imprinting are mono-allelically expressed in a parent-of-origin dependent manner. Each imprinted locus has at least one differentially methylated region (DMR) which has allele specific DNA methylation and contributes to imprinted gene expression. Once DMRs are established, they are potentially able to withstand normal genome reprogramming events that occur during cell differentiation and germ-line DMRs are stably maintained throughout development. These DMRs, in addition to being either maternally or paternally methylated, have differences in whether methylation was acquired in the germ-line or post fertilization and are present in a variety of genomic locations with different Cytosine-phosphate guanine (CpG) densities and CTCF binding capacities. We therefore examined the stability of maintenance of DNA methylation imprints and determined the normal baseline DNA methylation levels in several adult tissues for all imprinted genes. In order to do this, we first developed and validated 50 highly specific, quantitative DNA methylation pyrosequencing assays for the known DMRs associated with human imprinted genes.
Remarkable stability of the DNA methylation imprint was observed in all germ-line DMRs and paternally methylated somatic DMRs (which maintained average methylation levels of between 35% - 65% in all somatic tissues, independent of gene expression). Maternally methylated somatic DMRs were found to have more variation with tissue specific methylation patterns. Most DMRs, however, showed some intra-individual variability for DNA methylation levels in peripheral blood, suggesting that more than one DMR needs to be examined in order to get an overall impression of the epigenetic stability in a tissue. The plasticity of DNA methylation at imprinted genes was examined in a panel of normal and cancer cell lines. All cell lines showed changes in DNA methylation, especially at the paternal germ-line and the somatic DMRs.
Our validated pyrosequencing methylation assays can be widely used as a tool to investigate DNA methylation levels of imprinted genes in clinical samples. This first comprehensive analysis of normal methylation levels in adult somatic tissues at human imprinted regions confirm that, despite intra-individual variability and tissue specific expression, imprinted genes faithfully maintain their DNA methylation in healthy adult tissue. DNA methylation levels of a selection of imprinted genes are, therefore, a valuable indicator for epigenetic stability.
PMCID: PMC3038880  PMID: 21281512
21.  DNA methylation profile of Aire-deficient mouse medullary thymic epithelial cells 
BMC Immunology  2012;13:58.
Medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) are characterized by ectopic expression of self-antigens during the establishment of central tolerance. The autoimmune regulator (Aire), which is specifically expressed in mTECs, is responsible for the expression of a large repertoire of tissue-restricted antigens (TRAs) and plays a role in the development of mTECs. However, Aire-deficient mTECs still express TRAs. Moreover, a subset of mTECs, which are considered to be at a stage of terminal differentiation, exists in the Aire-deficient thymus. The phenotype of a specific cell type in a multicellular organism is governed by the epigenetic regulation system. DNA methylation modification is an important component of this system. Every cell or tissue type displays a DNA methylation profile, consisting of tissue-dependent and differentially methylated regions (T-DMRs), and this profile is involved in cell-type-specific genome usage. The aim of this study was to examine the DNA methylation profile of mTECs by using Aire-deficient mTECs as a model.
We identified the T-DMRs of mTECs (mTEC-T-DMRs) via genome-wide DNA methylation analysis of Aire−/− mTECs by comparison with the liver, brain, thymus, and embryonic stem cells. The hypomethylated mTEC-T-DMRs in Aire−/− mTECs were associated with mTEC-specific genes, including Aire, CD80, and Trp63, as well as other genes involved in the RANK signaling pathway. While these mTEC-T-DMRs were also hypomethylated in Aire+/+ mTECs, they were hypermethylated in control thymic stromal cells. We compared the pattern of DNA methylation levels at a total of 55 mTEC-T-DMRs and adjacent regions and found that the DNA methylation status was similar for Aire+/+ and Aire−/− mTECs but distinct from that of athymic cells and tissues.
These results indicate a unique DNA methylation profile that is independent of Aire in mTECs. This profile is distinct from other cell types in the thymic microenvironment and is indicated to be involved in the differentiation of the mTEC lineage.
PMCID: PMC3546423  PMID: 23116172
Medullary thymic epithelial cells; Aire; T-DMR
22.  Alcohol alters DNA Methylation Patterns and Inhibits Neural Stem Cell Differentiation 
Potential epigenetic mechanisms underlying fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) include alcohol-induced alterations of methyl metabolism, resulting in aberrant patterns of DNA methylation and gene expression during development. Having previously demonstrated an essential role for epigenetics in neural stem cell (NSC) development and that inhibiting DNA methylation prevents NSC differentiation, here we investigated the effect of alcohol exposure on genome-wide DNA methylation patterns and NSC differentiation.
NSCs in culture were treated with or without a 6-hr 88mM (“binge-like”) alcohol exposure and examined at 48 hrs, for migration, growth, and genome-wide DNA methylation. The DNA methylation was examined using DNA-methylation immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) followed by microarray analysis. Further validation was performed using Independent Sequenom analysis.
NSC differentiated in 24 to 48 hrs with migration, neuronal expression, and morphological transformation. Alcohol exposure retarded the migration, neuronal formation, and growth processes of NSC, similar to treatment with the methylation inhibitor 5-aza-cytidine. When NSC departed from the quiescent state, a genome-wide diversification of DNA methylation was observed—that is, many moderately methylated genes altered methylation levels and became hyper- and hypomethylated. Alcohol prevented many genes from such diversification, including genes related to neural development, neuronal receptors, and olfaction, while retarding differentiation. Validation of specific genes by Sequenom analysis demonstrated that alcohol exposure prevented methylation of specific genes associated with neural development [cutl2 (cut-like 2), Igf1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), Efemp1 (epidermal growth factor-containing fibulin-like extracellular matrix protein 1), and Sox 7 (SRY-box containing gene 7)]; eye development, Lim 2 (lens intrinsic membrane protein 2); the epigenetic mark Smarca2 (SWI/SNF related, matrix associated, actin dependent regulator of chromatin, subfamily a, member 2); and developmental disorder [Dgcr2 (DiGeorge syndrome critical region gene 2)]. Specific sites altered by DNA methylation also correlated with transcription factor binding sites known to be critical for regulating neural development.
The data indicate that alcohol prevents normal DNA methylation programming of key neural stem cell genes and retards NSC differentiation. Thus, the role of DNA methylation in FAS warrants further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3076804  PMID: 21223309
Epigenetics; Epigenomics; MeDIP-Chip; Neural development; Fetal alcohol syndrome
23.  Comparative Anatomy of Chromosomal Domains with Imprinted and Non-Imprinted Allele-Specific DNA Methylation 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003622.
Allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) is well studied in imprinted domains, but this type of epigenetic asymmetry is actually found more commonly at non-imprinted loci, where the ASM is dictated not by parent-of-origin but instead by the local haplotype. We identified loci with strong ASM in human tissues from methylation-sensitive SNP array data. Two index regions (bisulfite PCR amplicons), one between the C3orf27 and RPN1 genes in chromosome band 3q21 and the other near the VTRNA2-1 vault RNA in band 5q31, proved to be new examples of imprinted DMRs (maternal alleles methylated) while a third, between STEAP3 and C2orf76 in chromosome band 2q14, showed non-imprinted haplotype-dependent ASM. Using long-read bisulfite sequencing (bis-seq) in 8 human tissues we found that in all 3 domains the ASM is restricted to single differentially methylated regions (DMRs), each less than 2kb. The ASM in the C3orf27-RPN1 intergenic region was placenta-specific and associated with allele-specific expression of a long non-coding RNA. Strikingly, the discrete DMRs in all 3 regions overlap with binding sites for the insulator protein CTCF, which we found selectively bound to the unmethylated allele of the STEAP3-C2orf76 DMR. Methylation mapping in two additional genes with non-imprinted haplotype-dependent ASM, ELK3 and CYP2A7, showed that the CYP2A7 DMR also overlaps a CTCF site. Thus, two features of imprinted domains, highly localized DMRs and allele-specific insulator occupancy by CTCF, can also be found in chromosomal domains with non-imprinted ASM. Arguing for biological importance, our analysis of published whole genome bis-seq data from hES cells revealed multiple genome-wide association study (GWAS) peaks near CTCF binding sites with ASM.
Author Summary
Allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) is a central mechanism of gene regulation in humans, which can influence inter-individual differences in physical and mental traits and disease susceptibility. ASM is mediated either by parental imprinting, in which the repressed copy (allele) of the gene is determined by which type of parent (mother or father) transmitted it or, for a larger number of genes, by the local DNA sequence, independent of which parent transmitted it. Chromosomal regions with imprinted ASM have been well studied, and certain mechanistic principles, including the role of discrete differentially methylated regions (DMRs) and involvement of the insulator protein CTCF, have emerged. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying non-imprinted sequence-dependent ASM are not yet understood. Here we describe our detailed mapping of ASM across 5 gene regions, including two novel examples of imprinted ASM and three gene regions with non-imprinted, sequence-dependent ASM. Our data uncover shared molecular features – small discrete DMRs, and the binding of CTCF to these DMRs, in examples of both types of ASM. Combining ASM mapping with genetic association data suggests that sequence-dependent ASM at CTCF binding sites influences diverse human traits.
PMCID: PMC3757050  PMID: 24009515
24.  DNA Methylation Is Linked to Deacetylation of Histone H3, but Not H4, on the Imprinted Genes Snrpn and U2af1-rs1 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2001;21(16):5426-5436.
The relationship between DNA methylation and histone acetylation at the imprinted mouse genes U2af1-rs1 and Snrpn is explored by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and resolution of parental alleles using single-strand conformational polymorphisms. The U2af1-rs1 gene lies within a differentially methylated region (DMR), while Snrpn has a 5′ DMR (DMR1) with sequences homologous to the imprinting control center of the Prader-Willi/Angelman region. For both DMR1 of Snrpn and the 5′ untranslated region (5′-UTR) and 3′-UTR of U2af1-rs1, the methylated and nonexpressed maternal allele was underacetylated, relative to the paternal allele, at all H3 lysines tested (K14, K9, and K18). For H4, underacetylation of the maternal allele was exclusively (U2af1-rs1) or predominantly (Snrpn) at lysine 5. Essentially the same patterns of differential acetylation were found in embryonic stem (ES) cells, embryo fibroblasts, and adult liver from F1 mice and in ES cells from mice that were dipaternal or dimaternal for U2af1-rs1. In contrast, in a region within Snrpn that has biallelic methylation in the cells and tissues analyzed, the paternal (expressed) allele showed relatively increased acetylation of H4 but not of H3. The methyl-CpG-binding-domain (MBD) protein MeCP2 was found, by ChIP, to be associated exclusively with the maternal U2af1-rs1 allele. To ask whether DNA methylation is associated with histone deacetylation, we produced mice with transgene-induced methylation at the paternal allele of U2af1-rs1. In these mice, H3 was underacetylated across both the parental U2af1-rs1 alleles whereas H4 acetylation was unaltered. Collectively, these data are consistent with the hypothesis that CpG methylation leads to deacetylation of histone H3, but not H4, through a process that involves selective binding of MBD proteins.
PMCID: PMC87265  PMID: 11463825
25.  Arterial endothelial methylome: differential DNA methylation in athero-susceptible disturbed flow regions in vivo 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(1):506.
Atherosclerosis is a heterogeneously distributed disease of arteries in which the endothelium plays an important central role. Spatial transcriptome profiling of endothelium in pre-lesional arteries has demonstrated differential phenotypes primed for athero-susceptibility at hemodynamic sites associated with disturbed blood flow. DNA methylation is a powerful epigenetic regulator of endothelial transcription recently associated with flow characteristics. We investigated differential DNA methylation in flow region-specific aortic endothelial cells in vivo in adult domestic male and female swine.
Genome-wide DNA methylation was profiled in endothelial cells (EC) isolated from two robust locations of differing patho-susceptibility: − an athero-susceptible site located at the inner curvature of the aortic arch (AA) and an athero-protected region in the descending thoracic (DT) aorta. Complete methylated DNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (MeDIP-seq) identified over 5500 endothelial differentially methylated regions (DMRs). DMR density was significantly enriched in exons and 5’UTR sequences of annotated genes, 60 of which are linked to cardiovascular disease. The set of DMR-associated genes was enriched in transcriptional regulation, pattern specification HOX loci, oxidative stress and the ER stress adaptive pathway, all categories linked to athero-susceptible endothelium. Examination of the relationship between DMR and mRNA in HOXA genes demonstrated a significant inverse relationship between CpG island promoter methylation and gene expression. Methylation-specific PCR (MSP) confirmed differential CpG methylation of HOXA genes, the ER stress gene ATF4, inflammatory regulator microRNA-10a and ARHGAP25 that encodes a negative regulator of Rho GTPases involved in cytoskeleton remodeling. Gender-specific DMRs associated with ciliogenesis that may be linked to defects in cilia development were also identified in AA DMRs.
An endothelial methylome analysis identifies epigenetic DMR characteristics associated with transcriptional regulation in regions of atherosusceptibility in swine aorta in vivo. The data represent the first methylome blueprint for spatio-temporal analyses of lesion susceptibility predisposing to endothelial dysfunction in complex flow environments in vivo.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12864-015-1656-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4492093  PMID: 26148682
Endothelium; DNA Methylation; Epigenetics; Hemodynamics; Disturbed Flow; HOX Genes; Atherosclerosis; Endothelial Gene Transcription

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