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.
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.
Differentially methylated region; Illumina 450k; Annotation; Algorithm; Tissue
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.
DNA; Methylation; Epigenesis; Genetic; Gene silencing; Embryonic stem cells; Developmental biology; Mouse
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are derived by epigenetic reprogramming, but their DNA methylation patterns have not yet been analyzed on a genome-wide scale. Here, we find substantial hypermethylation and hypomethylation of cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) island shores in nine human iPS cell lines as compared to their parental fibroblasts. The differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in the reprogrammed cells (denoted R-DMRs) were significantly enriched in tissue-specific (T-DMRs; 2.6-fold, P < 10−4) and cancer-specific DMRs (C-DMRs; 3.6-fold, P < 10−4). Notably, even though the iPS cells are derived from fibroblasts, their R-DMRs can distinguish between normal brain, liver and spleen cells and between colon cancer and normal colon cells. Thus, many DMRs are broadly involved in tissue differentiation, epigenetic reprogramming and cancer. We observed colocalization of hypomethylated R-DMRs with hypermethylated C-DMRs and bivalent chromatin marks, and colocalization of hypermethylated R-DMRs with hypomethylated C-DMRs and the absence of bivalent marks, suggesting two mechanisms for epigenetic reprogramming in iPS cells and cancer.
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
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.
Parent-of-origin specific expression of imprinted genes relies on the differential DNA methylation of specific genomic regions. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) acquire DNA methylation either during gametogenesis (primary DMR) or after fertilization when allele-specific expression is established (secondary DMR). Little is known about the function of these secondary DMRs. We investigated the DMR spanning Cdkn1c in mouse embryonic stem cells, androgenetic stem cells and embryonic germ stem cells. In all cases, expression of Cdkn1c was appropriately repressed in in vitro differentiated cells. However, stem cells failed to de novo methylate the silenced gene even after sustained differentiation. In the absence of maintained DNA methylation (Dnmt1−/−), Cdkn1c escapes silencing demonstrating the requirement for DNA methylation in long term silencing in vivo. We propose that post-fertilization differential methylation reflects the importance of retaining single gene dosage of a subset of imprinted loci in the adult.
DNA methylation; imprinted; secondary DMR; stem cells
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.
DNA methylation is known to regulate cell differentiation and neuronal function in vivo. Here we examined whether deficiency of a de novo DNA methyltransferase, Dnmt3a, affects in vitro differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) to neuronal and glial cell lineages. Early passage neural stem cells (NSCs) derived from Dnmt3a-deficient ESCs exhibited a moderate phenotype in precocious glial differentiation compared to wild-type counterparts. However, successive passaging to passage six (P6), when wild-type NSCs become gliogenic, revealed a robust phenotype of precocious astrocyte and oligodendrocyte differentiation in Dnmt3a−/− NSCs, consistent with our previous findings in the more severely hypomethylated Dnmt1−/− NSCs. Mass-spectrometry analysis revealed total levels of methylcytosine in Dnmt3a−/− NSCs at P6 were globally hypomethylated. Moreover, Dnmt3a−/− NSC proliferation rate was significantly increased when compared to control from P6 on. Thus, our work revealed a novel role for Dnmt3a in regulating both the timing of neural cell differentiation and cell proliferation in the paradigm of mESC-derived-NSCs.
DNA methylation; Cell differentiation; Cell proliferation; Glial cells; Neural stem cells; p53
Parent of origin imprints on the genome have been implicated in the regulation of neural cell type differentiation. The ability of human parthenogenetic (PG) embryonic stem cells (hpESCs) to undergo neural lineage and cell type-specific differentiation is undefined. We determined the potential of hpESCs to differentiate into various neural subtypes. Concurrently, we examined DNA methylation and expression status of imprinted genes. Under culture conditions promoting neural differentiation, hpESC-derived neural stem cells (hpNSCs) gave rise to glia and neuron-like cells that expressed subtype-specific markers and generated action potentials. Analysis of imprinting in hpESCs and in hpNSCs revealed that maternal-specific gene expression patterns and imprinting marks were generally maintained in PG cells upon differentiation. Our results demonstrate that despite the lack of a paternal genome, hpESCs generate proliferating NSCs that are capable of differentiation into physiologically functional neuron-like cells and maintain allele-specific expression of imprinted genes. Thus, hpESCs can serve as a model to study the role of maternal and paternal genomes in neural development and to better understand imprinting-associated brain diseases.
Genomic imprinting at the Delta-like 1 (Dlk1) - Maternally expressed gene 3 (Meg3) locus is regulated by the Meg3 differentially methylated region (DMR), but the mechanism by which this DMR acts is unknown. The goal of this study was to analyze the Meg3 DMR during imprinting establishment and maintenance for the presence of histone modifications and trans-acting DNA binding proteins using chromatin immunoprecipitation. In embryonic stem (ES) cells, where Meg3 is biallelically expressed, the DMR showed variable DNA methylation, with biallelic methylation at one region but paternal allele-specific methylation at another. All histone modifications detected at the Meg3 DMR of ES cells were biallelic. In embryonic day 12.5 (e12.5) embryos, where Meg3 is maternally expressed, the paternal Meg3 DMR was methylated, and activating histone modifications were specific to the maternal DMR. DNA-binding proteins that represent potential regulatory factors were identified in both ES cells and embryos.
Dlk1; Meg3; genomic imprinting; differentially methylated region; epigenetics; histone modifications; chromatin immunoprecipitation
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.
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.
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.
DNA methylation; Tissue-dependent and differentially methylated region; Neural progenitor cells
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.
Epigenetics; Epigenomics; MeDIP-Chip; Neural development; Fetal alcohol syndrome
Neural stem cells (NSCs) lose their competency to generate region-specific neuronal populations at an early stage during embryonic brain development. Here we investigated whether epigenetic modifications can reverse the regional restriction of mouse adult brain subventricular zone (SVZ) NSCs. Using a variety of chemicals that interfere with DNA methylation and histone acetylation, we showed that such epigenetic modifications increased neuronal differentiation but did not enable specific regional patterning, such as midbrain dopaminergic (DA) neuron generation. Only after Oct-4 overexpression did adult NSCs acquire a pluripotent state that allowed differentiation into midbrain DA neurons. DA neurons derived from Oct4-reprogrammed NSCs improved behavioural motor deficits in a rat model of Parkinson's disease (PD) upon intrastriatal transplantation. Here we report for the first time the successful differentiation of SVZ adult NSCs into functional region-specific midbrain DA neurons, by means of Oct-4 induced pluripotency.
The maintenance of pluripotency and specification of cellular lineages during embryonic development are controlled by transcriptional regulatory networks, which coordinate specific sets of genes through both activation and repression. The transcriptional repressor RE1-silencing transcription factor (REST) plays important but distinct regulatory roles in embryonic (ESC) and neural (NSC) stem cells. We investigated how these distinct biological roles are effected at a genomic level. We present integrated, comparative genome- and transcriptome-wide analyses of transcriptional networks governed by REST in mouse ESC and NSC. The REST recruitment profile has dual components: a developmentally independent core that is common to ESC, NSC, and differentiated cells; and a large, ESC-specific set of target genes. In ESC, the REST regulatory network is highly integrated into that of pluripotency factors Oct4-Sox2-Nanog. We propose that an extensive, pluripotency-specific recruitment profile lends REST a key role in the maintenance of the ESC phenotype.
Embryonic stem cells have the unique and defining property of pluripotency: the ability to differentiate into all cell types. Key transcription factors form interconnected gene regulatory networks that control pluripotency and differentiation. Recently, the transcriptional repressor RE1-silencing transcription factor (REST) was implicated in the maintenance of pluripotency. This was surprising, given that REST has long been known as an essential regulator of neurodevelopment. How does REST regulate pluripotency? Does REST have distinct cohorts of binding sites and target genes in different developmental contexts? To address these questions, we made whole-genome maps of REST binding sites in two mouse stem cell types: embryonic (ESC) and neural (NSC) stem cells. These data were compared with each other and with gene expression data from cells in which REST activity was inhibited. The target genes were almost completely distinct in the two cell types. Surprisingly, we found that REST recruitment has two approximately equal components: common sites across all cells and an ESC-specific component. These pluripotency-associated sites are enriched for particular classes of genes, including those mediating the Wnt signaling pathway, which is an essential regulator of pluripotency.
Whole-genome mapping of the essential transcriptional repressor REST reveals distinct binding profiles and diverse roles in embryonic and neural stem cells.
Epigenetic modifications, such as aberrant DNA promoter methylation, are frequently observed in cervical cancer. Identification of hypermethylated regions allowing discrimination between normal cervical epithelium and high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN2/3), or worse, may improve current cervical cancer population-based screening programs. In this study, the DNA methylome of high-grade CIN lesions was studied using genome-wide DNA methylation screening to identify potential biomarkers for early diagnosis of cervical neoplasia. Methylated DNA Immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) combined with DNA microarray was used to compare DNA methylation profiles of epithelial cells derived from high-grade CIN lesions with normal cervical epithelium. Hypermethylated differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were identified. Validation of nine selected DMRs using BSP and MSP in cervical tissue revealed methylation in 63.2–94.7% high-grade CIN and in 59.3–100% cervical carcinomas. QMSP for the two most significant high-grade CIN-specific methylation markers was conducted exploring test performance in a large series of cervical scrapings. Frequency and relative level of methylation were significantly different between normal and cancer samples. Clinical validation of both markers in cervical scrapings from patients with an abnormal cervical smear confirmed that frequency and relative level of methylation were related with increasing severity of the underlying CIN lesion and that ROC analysis was discriminative. These markers represent the COL25A1 and KATNAL2 and their observed increased methylation upon progression could intimate the regulatory role in carcinogenesis. In conclusion, our newly identified hypermethylated DMRs represent specific DNA methylation patterns in high-grade CIN lesions and are candidate biomarkers for early detection.
cervical precancerous lesion; DNA methylation; MeDIP-chip; cervical scraping
Emerging information indicates that epigenetic modification (i.e. histone code and DNA methylation) may be integral to the maintenance and differentiation of neural stem cells (NSC), but their actual involvements have not yet been illustrated. In this study, we demonstrated the dynamic nature of epigenetic marks during the differentiation of quiescent adult rat NSCs in neurospheres. A subpopulation of OCT4+ NSCs in the neurosphere contained Histone marks, trimethylated Histone 3 on lysine 27 (3me-H3K27), 2me-H3K4, and acetylated H4 (Ac-H4). A major decrease of these marks was found prior to or during differentiation, and was further diminished or reprogrammed in diverse subpopulations of migrated NSCs expressing nestin or β-III-tubulin. The DNA methylation mark 5-methyl-cytosine (5-MeC) and the DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) 1 and 3a expression also correlated to the state of differentiation; they were highly present in undifferentiated NSCs but down-regulated in migrated populations. In contrast, the DNA methyl-CpG-binding protein (MBD1) was low in undifferentiated NSCs in neurospheres, but highly appeared in differentiating NSCs. Furthermore, we found a outward translocation of DNA-methylation marks 5-MeC, DNMT1, DNMT3a, and MBD1 in NSCs as differentiation began and proceeded; the 5-MeC from homogeneous nucleus to peripheral-nucleus, and DMNT1a and 3a from nuclear to cytoplasm, indicating chromatin remodeling. Treatment with DNA a methylation inhibitor, 5-aza-cytidine, altered DNA methylation and disrupted migration as indicated by a reduction of migrated neurons and differentiation. These results indicate that chromatin is dynamically remodeled when NSCs transform from the quiescent state to active growth, and that DNA methylation modification is essential for neural stem cell differentiation.
Neural progenitor cells; DNA methylation; Histone code; DNMT; MBD1; 5-azacytidine
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.
The exact role of intragenic DNA methylation in regulating tissue-specific gene regulation is unclear. Recently, the DNA-binding protein CTCF has been shown to participate in the regulation of alternative splicing in a DNA methylation-dependent manner. To globally evaluate the relationship between DNA methylation and tissue-specific alternative splicing, we performed genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of mouse retina and brain. In protein-coding genes, tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (T-DMRs) were preferentially located in exons and introns. Gene ontology and evolutionary conservation analysis suggest that these T-DMRs are likely to be biologically relevant. More than 14% of alternatively spliced genes were associated with a T-DMR. T-DMR-associated genes were enriched for developmental genes, suggesting that a specific set of alternatively spliced genes may be regulated through DNA methylation. Novel DNA sequences motifs overrepresented in T-DMRs were identified as being associated with positive and/or negative regulation of alternative splicing in a position-dependent context. The majority of these evolutionarily conserved motifs contain a CpG dinucleotide. Some transcription factors, which recognize these motifs, are known to be involved in splicing. Our results suggest that DNA methylation-dependent alternative splicing is widespread and lay the foundation for further mechanistic studies of the role of DNA methylation in tissue-specific splicing regulation.
Aberrant DNA methylation often occurs in colorectal cancer (CRC). In our study we applied a genome-wide DNA methylation analysis approach, MethylCap-seq, to map the differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in 24 tumors and matched normal colon samples. In total, 2687 frequently hypermethylated and 468 frequently hypomethylated regions were identified, which include potential biomarkers for CRC diagnosis. Hypermethylation in the tumor samples was enriched at CpG islands and gene promoters, while hypomethylation was distributed throughout the genome. Using epigenetic data from human embryonic stem cells, we show that frequently hypermethylated regions coincide with bivalent loci in human embryonic stem cells. DNA methylation is commonly thought to lead to gene silencing; however, integration of publically available gene expression data indicates that 75% of the frequently hypermethylated genes were most likely already lowly or not expressed in normal tissue. Collectively, our study provides genome-wide DNA methylation maps of CRC, comprehensive lists of DMRs, and gives insights into the role of aberrant DNA methylation in CRC formation.
DNA methylation; colorectal cancer; biomarkers; H3K27me3; gene expression; Illumina sequencing
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) hold promise for the treatment of many human pathologies. For example, hESCs and the neuronal stem cells (NSCs) and neurons derived from them have significant potential as transplantation therapies for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. Two concerns about the use of hESCs and their differentiated derivatives are their ability to function and their ability to resist neoplastic transformation in response to stresses that inevitably arise during their preparation for transplantation. To begin to understand how these cells handle genotoxic stress, we examined the responses of hESCs and derived NSCs and neurons to ionizing radiation (IR). Undifferentiated hESCs were extremely sensitive to IR, with nearly all the cells undergoing cell death within 5–7 hours. NSCs and neurons were substantially more resistant to IR, with neurons showing the most resistant. Of interest, NSCs that survived IR underwent cellular senescence and acquired astrocytic characteristics. Unlike IR-treated astrocytes, however, the NSC-derived astrocytic cells that survived IR did not display the typical pro-inflammatory, pro-carcinogenic senescence-associated secretory phenotype. These findings suggest distinct genotoxic stress-responses of hESCs and derived NSC and neuronal populations, and suggest that damaged NSCs, while failing to function, may not cause local inflammation.
Neuronal stem cells; neurons; astrocytes; senescence; apoptosis
During development, a small but significant number of CpG islands (CGIs) become methylated. The timing of developmentally programmed CGI methylation and associated mechanisms of transcriptional regulation during cellular differentiation, however, remain poorly characterized. Here, we used genome-wide DNA methylation microarrays to identify epigenetic changes during human embryonic stem cell (hESC) differentiation. We discovered a group of CGIs associated with developmental genes that gain methylation after hESCs differentiate. Conversely, erasure of methylation was observed at the identified CGIs during subsequent reprogramming to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), further supporting a functional role for the CGI methylation. Both global gene expression profiling and quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) validation indicated opposing effects of CGI methylation in transcriptional regulation during differentiation, with promoter CGI methylation repressing and 3′ CGI methylation activating transcription. By studying diverse human tissues and mouse models, we further confirmed that developmentally programmed 3′ CGI methylation confers tissue- and cell-type-specific gene activation in vivo. Importantly, luciferase reporter assays provided evidence that 3′ CGI methylation regulates transcriptional activation via a CTCF-dependent enhancer-blocking mechanism. These findings expand the classic view of mammalian CGI methylation as a mechanism for transcriptional silencing and indicate a functional role for 3′ CGI methylation in developmental gene regulation.
DNA methylation patterns change dynamically during mammalian development and lineage specification, yet scarce information is available about how DNA methylation affects gene expression profiles upon differentiation. Here we determine genome-wide transcription profiles during undirected differentiation of severely hypomethylated (Dnmt1−/−) embryonic stem cells (ESCs) as well as ESCs completely devoid of DNA methylation (Dnmt1−/−;Dnmt3a−/−;Dnmt3b−/− or TKO) and assay their potential to transit in and out of the ESC state. We find that the expression of only few genes mainly associated with germ line function and the X chromosome is affected in undifferentiated TKO ESCs. Upon initial differentiation as embryoid bodies (EBs) wild type, Dnmt1−/− and TKO cells downregulate pluripotency associated genes and upregulate lineage specific genes, but their transcription profiles progressively diverge upon prolonged EB culture. While Oct4 protein levels are completely and homogeneously suppressed, transcription of Oct4 and Nanog is not completely silenced even at late stages in both Dnmt1−/− and TKO EBs. Despite late wild type and Dnmt1−/− EBs showing a much higher degree of concordant expression, after EB dissociation and replating under pluripotency promoting conditions both Dnmt1−/− and TKO cells, but not wild type cells rapidly revert to expression profiles typical of undifferentiated ESCs. Thus, while DNA methylation seems not to be critical for initial activation of differentiation programs, it is crucial for permanent restriction of developmental fate during differentiation.