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1.  5-hydroxymethylcytosine marks promoters in colon that resist DNA hypermethylation in cancer 
Genome Biology  2015;16(1):69.
The discovery of cytosine hydroxymethylation (5hmC) as a mechanism that potentially controls DNA methylation changes typical of neoplasia prompted us to investigate its behaviour in colon cancer. 5hmC is globally reduced in proliferating cells such as colon tumours and the gut crypt progenitors, from which tumours can arise.
Here, we show that colorectal tumours and cancer cells express Ten-Eleven-Translocation (TET) transcripts at levels similar to normal tissues. Genome-wide analyses show that promoters marked by 5hmC in normal tissue, and those identified as TET2 targets in colorectal cancer cells, are resistant to methylation gain in cancer. In vitro studies of TET2 in cancer cells confirm that these promoters are resistant to methylation gain independently of sustained TET2 expression. We also find that a considerable number of the methylation gain-resistant promoters marked by 5hmC in normal colon overlap with those that are marked with poised bivalent histone modifications in embryonic stem cells.
Together our results indicate that promoters that acquire 5hmC upon normal colon differentiation are innately resistant to neoplastic hypermethylation by mechanisms that do not require high levels of 5hmC in tumours. Our study highlights the potential of cytosine modifications as biomarkers of cancerous cell proliferation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13059-015-0605-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4380107  PMID: 25853800
2.  Epigenetic regulation of DACH1, a novel Wnt signaling component in colorectal cancer 
Epigenetics  2013;8(12):1373-1383.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the common malignant tumors worldwide. Both genetic and epigenetic changes are regarded as important factors of colorectal carcinogenesis. Loss of DACH1 expression was found in breast, prostate, and endometrial cancer. To analyze the regulation and function of DACH1 in CRC, 5 colorectal cancer cell lines, 8 cases of normal mucosa, 15 cases of polyps and 100 cases of primary CRC were employed in this study. In CRC cell lines, loss of DACH1 expression was correlated with promoter region hypermethylation, and re-expression of DACH1 was induced by 5-Aza-2'-deoxyazacytidine treatment. We found that DACH1 was frequently methylated in primary CRC and this methylation was associated with reduction in DACH1 expression. These results suggest that DACH1 expression is regulated by promoter region hypermethylation in CRC. DACH1 methylation was associated with late tumor stage, poor differentiation, and lymph node metastasis. Re-expression of DACH1 reduced TCF/LEF luciferase reporter activity and inhibited the expression of Wnt signaling downstream targets (c-Myc and cyclinD1). In xenografts of HCT116 cells in which DACH1 was re-expressed, tumor size was smaller than in controls. In addition, restoration of DACH1 expression induced G2/M phase arrest and sensitized HCT116 cells to docetaxel. DACH1 suppresses CRC growth by inhibiting Wnt signaling both in vitro and in vivo. Silencing of DACH1 expression caused resistance of CRC cells to docetaxel. In conclusion, DACH1 is frequently methylated in human CRC and methylation of DACH1 may serve as detective and prognostic marker in CRC.
PMCID: PMC3933496  PMID: 24149323
DACH1; DNA methylation; Wnt signaling; colorectal cancer; chemosensitivity
3.  Citrullination of DNMT3A by PADI4 regulates its stability and controls DNA methylation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(13):8285-8296.
DNA methylation is a central epigenetic modification in mammals, with essential roles in development and disease. De novo DNA methyltransferases establish DNA methylation patterns in specific regions within the genome by mechanisms that remain poorly understood. Here we show that protein citrullination by peptidylarginine deiminase 4 (PADI4) affects the function of the DNA methyltransferase DNMT3A. We found that DNMT3A and PADI4 interact, from overexpressed as well as untransfected cells, and associate with each other's enzymatic activity. Both in vitro and in vivo, PADI4 was shown to citrullinate DNMT3A. We identified a sequence upstream of the PWWP domain of DNMT3A as its primary region citrullinated by PADI4. Increasing the PADI4 level caused the DNMT3A protein level to increase as well, provided that the PADI4 was catalytically active, and RNAi targeting PADI4 caused reduced DNMT3A levels. Accordingly, pulse-chase experiments revealed stabilization of the DNMT3A protein by catalytically active PADI4. Citrullination and increased expression of native DNMT3A by PADI4 were confirmed in PADI4-knockout MEFs. Finally, we showed that PADI4 overexpression increases DNA methyltransferase activity in a catalytic-dependent manner and use bisulfite pyrosequencing to demonstrate that PADI4 knockdown causes significant reduction of CpG methylation at the p21 promoter, a known target of DNMT3A and PADI4. Protein citrullination by PADI4 thus emerges as a novel mechanism for controlling a de novo DNA methyltransferase. Our results shed new light on how post-translational modifications might contribute to shaping the genomic CpG methylation landscape.
PMCID: PMC4117755  PMID: 24957603
4.  A comprehensive overview of Infinium HumanMethylation450 data processing 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2013;15(6):929-941.
Infinium HumanMethylation450 beadarray is a popular technology to explore DNA methylomes in health and disease, and there is a current explosion in the use of this technique. Despite experience acquired from gene expression microarrays, analyzing Infinium Methylation arrays appeared more complex than initially thought and several difficulties have been encountered, as those arrays display specific features that need to be taken into consideration during data processing. Here, we review several issues that have been highlighted by the scientific community, and we present an overview of the general data processing scheme and an evaluation of the different normalization methods available to date to guide the 450K users in their analysis and data interpretation.
PMCID: PMC4239800  PMID: 23990268
Epigenomics; Genome-wide DNA methylation technology
5.  TET proteins: on the frenetic hunt for new cytosine modifications 
Briefings in Functional Genomics  2013;12(3):191-204.
Epigenetic genome marking and chromatin regulation are central to establishing tissue-specific gene expression programs, and hence to several biological processes. Until recently, the only known epigenetic mark on DNA in mammals was 5-methylcytosine, established and propagated by DNA methyltransferases and generally associated with gene repression. All of a sudden, a host of new actors—novel cytosine modifications and the ten eleven translocation (TET) enzymes—has appeared on the scene, sparking great interest. The challenge is now to uncover the roles they play and how they relate to DNA demethylation. Knowledge is accumulating at a frantic pace, linking these new players to essential biological processes (e.g. cell pluripotency and development) and also to cancerogenesis. Here, we review the recent progress in this exciting field, highlighting the TET enzymes as epigenetic DNA modifiers, their physiological roles, and their functions in health and disease. We also discuss the need to find relevant TET interactants and the newly discovered TET–O-linked N-acetylglucosamine transferase (OGT) pathway.
PMCID: PMC3662890  PMID: 23625996
epigenetics; DNA methylation; hydroxymethylation; TET proteins; OGT
6.  TET2 and TET3 regulate GlcNAcylation and H3K4 methylation through OGT and SET1/COMPASS 
The EMBO Journal  2013;32(5):645-655.
This paper identifies the N-acetylglucosamine transferase OGT as binding partner for TET2/3 proteins. Their genome-wide chromatin binding and the characterization of the Set1/COMPASS complex as OGT target implies coordinated gene regulation.
TET proteins convert 5-methylcytosine to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, an emerging dynamic epigenetic state of DNA that can influence transcription. Evidence has linked TET1 function to epigenetic repression complexes, yet mechanistic information, especially for the TET2 and TET3 proteins, remains limited. Here, we show a direct interaction of TET2 and TET3 with O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT). OGT does not appear to influence hmC activity, rather TET2 and TET3 promote OGT activity. TET2/3–OGT co-localize on chromatin at active promoters enriched for H3K4me3 and reduction of either TET2/3 or OGT activity results in a direct decrease in H3K4me3 and concomitant decreased transcription. Further, we show that Host Cell Factor 1 (HCF1), a component of the H3K4 methyltransferase SET1/COMPASS complex, is a specific GlcNAcylation target of TET2/3–OGT, and modification of HCF1 is important for the integrity of SET1/COMPASS. Additionally, we find both TET proteins and OGT activity promote binding of the SET1/COMPASS H3K4 methyltransferase, SETD1A, to chromatin. Finally, studies in Tet2 knockout mouse bone marrow tissue extend and support the data as decreases are observed of global GlcNAcylation and also of H3K4me3, notably at several key regulators of haematopoiesis. Together, our results unveil a step-wise model, involving TET–OGT interactions, promotion of GlcNAcylation, and influence on H3K4me3 via SET1/COMPASS, highlighting a novel means by which TETs may induce transcriptional activation.
PMCID: PMC3590984  PMID: 23353889
chromatin; epigenetics; TET proteins
7.  DNA methylation markers for breast cancer prognosis 
Oncoimmunology  2012;1(6):962-964.
Currently, most of the prognostic and predictive gene expression signatures emerging for breast cancer concern the tumor component. In Dedeurwaerder et al. we show that DNA methylation profiling of breast tumors is a particularly sensitive means of capturing features of the immune component of breast tumors. Most importantly, correlation is observed between T-cell marker genes and breast cancer clinical outcome.
PMCID: PMC3489760  PMID: 23162772
breast cancer; DNA methylome; epigenomics; lymphocyte infiltration; tumor microenvironment
8.  Aberrant Promoter Methylation and Expression of UTF1 during Cervical Carcinogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42704.
Promoter methylation profiles are proposed as potential prognosis and/or diagnosis biomarkers in cervical cancer. Up to now, little is known about the promoter methylation profile and expression pattern of stem cell (SC) markers during tumor development. In this study, we were interested to identify SC genes methylation profiles during cervical carcinogenesis. A genome-wide promoter methylation screening revealed a strong hypermethylation of Undifferentiated cell Transcription Factor 1 (UTF1) promoter in cervical cancer in comparison with normal ectocervix. By direct bisulfite pyrosequencing of DNA isolated from liquid-based cytological samples, we showed that UTF1 promoter methylation increases with lesion severity, the highest level of methylation being found in carcinoma. This hypermethylation was associated with increased UTF1 mRNA and protein expression. By using quantitative RT-PCR and Western Blot, we showed that both UTF1 mRNA and protein are present in epithelial cancer cell lines, even in the absence of its two main described regulators Oct4A and Sox2. Moreover, by immunofluorescence, we confirmed the nuclear localisation of UTF1 in cell lines. Surprisingly, direct bisulfite pyrosequencing revealed that the inhibition of DNA methyltransferase by 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine was associated with decreased UTF1 gene methylation and expression in two cervical cancer cell lines of the four tested. These findings strongly suggest that UTF1 promoter methylation profile might be a useful biomarker for cervical cancer diagnosis and raise the questions of its role during epithelial carcinogenesis and of the mechanisms regulating its expression.
PMCID: PMC3411846  PMID: 22880087
9.  The histone demethylase Kdm3a is essential to progression through differentiation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(15):7219-7232.
Histone demethylation has important roles in regulating gene expression and forms part of the epigenetic memory system that regulates cell fate and identity by still poorly understood mechanisms. Here, we examined the role of histone demethylase Kdm3a during cell differentiation, showing that Kdm3a is essential for differentiation into parietal endoderm-like (PE) cells in the F9 mouse embryonal carcinoma model. We identified a number of target genes regulated by Kdm3a during endoderm differentiation; among the most dysregulated were the three developmental master regulators Dab2, Pdlim4 and FoxQ1. We show that dysregulation of the expression of these genes correlates with Kdm3a H3K9me2 demethylase activity. We further demonstrate that either Dab2 depletion or Kdm3a depletion prevents F9 cells from fully differentiating into PE cells, but that ectopic expression of Dab2 cannot compensate for Kdm3a knockdown; Dab2 is thus necessary, but insufficient on its own, to promote complete terminal differentiation. We conclude that Kdm3a plays a crucial role in progression through PE differentiation by regulating expression of a set of endoderm differentiation master genes. The emergence of Kdm3a as a key modulator of cell fate decision strengthens the view that histone demethylases are essential to cell differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3424556  PMID: 22581778
10.  DNA methylation profiling identifies epigenetic dysregulation in pancreatic islets from type 2 diabetic patients 
The EMBO Journal  2012;31(6):1405-1426.
DNA methylation profiling identifies epigenetic dysregulation in pancreatic islets from type 2 diabetic patients
The first genome-scale DNA methylation study on pancreatic islets from type 2 diabetic patients identifies disease-associated DNA methylation pattern that translate into aberrant gene expression in novel factors relevant for β-cell function and survival.
In addition to genetic predisposition, environmental and lifestyle factors contribute to the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Epigenetic changes may provide the link for translating environmental exposures into pathological mechanisms. In this study, we performed the first comprehensive DNA methylation profiling in pancreatic islets from T2D and non-diabetic donors. We uncovered 276 CpG loci affiliated to promoters of 254 genes displaying significant differential DNA methylation in diabetic islets. These methylation changes were not present in blood cells from T2D individuals nor were they experimentally induced in non-diabetic islets by exposure to high glucose. For a subgroup of the differentially methylated genes, concordant transcriptional changes were present. Functional annotation of the aberrantly methylated genes and RNAi experiments highlighted pathways implicated in β-cell survival and function; some are implicated in cellular dysfunction while others facilitate adaptation to stressors. Together, our findings offer new insights into the intricate mechanisms of T2D pathogenesis, underscore the important involvement of epigenetic dysregulation in diabetic islets and may advance our understanding of T2D aetiology.
PMCID: PMC3321176  PMID: 22293752
DNA methylation; pancreatic islets; type 2 diabetes
11.  DNA methylation profiling reveals a predominant immune component in breast cancers 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2011;3(12):726-741.
Breast cancer is a molecularly, biologically and clinically heterogeneous group of disorders. Understanding this diversity is essential to improving diagnosis and optimizing treatment. Both genetic and acquired epigenetic abnormalities participate in cancer, but the involvement of the epigenome in breast cancer and its contribution to the complexity of the disease are still poorly understood. By means of DNA methylation profiling of 248 breast tissues, we have highlighted the existence of previously unrecognized breast cancer groups that go beyond the currently known ‘expression subtypes’. Interestingly, we showed that DNA methylation profiling can reflect the cell type composition of the tumour microenvironment, and in particular a T lymphocyte infiltration of the tumours. Further, we highlighted a set of immune genes having high prognostic value in specific tumour categories. The immune component uncovered here by DNA methylation profiles provides a new perspective for the importance of the microenvironment in breast cancer, holding implications for better management of breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3377115  PMID: 21910250
breast cancer; DNA methylation; epigenetics; epigenomics; microenvironment
12.  Functional Connection between Deimination and Deacetylation of Histones▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(18):4982-4993.
Histone methylation plays key roles in regulating chromatin structure and function. The recent identification of enzymes that antagonize or remove histone methylation offers new opportunities to appreciate histone methylation plasticity in the regulation of epigenetic pathways. Peptidylarginine deiminase 4 (PADI4; also known as PAD4) was the first enzyme shown to antagonize histone methylation. PADI4 functions as a histone deiminase converting a methylarginine residue to citrulline at specific sites on the tails of histones H3 and H4. This activity is linked to repression of the estrogen-regulated pS2 promoter. Very little is known as to how PADI4 silences gene expression. We show here that PADI4 associates with the histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1). Kinetic chromatin immunoprecipitation assays revealed that PADI4 and HDAC1, and the corresponding activities, associate cyclically and coordinately with the pS2 promoter during repression phases. Knockdown of HDAC1 led to decreased H3 citrullination, concomitantly with increased histone arginine methylation. In cells with a reduced HDAC1 and a slightly decreased PADI4 level, these effects were more pronounced. Our data thus suggest that PADI4 and HDAC1 collaborate to generate a repressive chromatin environment on the pS2 promoter. These findings further substantiate the “transcriptional clock” concept, highlighting the dynamic connection between deimination and deacetylation of histones.
PMCID: PMC2738279  PMID: 19581286
13.  De novo DNA methylation promoted by G9a prevents reprogramming of embryonically silenced genes 
Nature structural & molecular biology  2008;15(11):1176-1183.
The pluripotency determining gene, Oct-3/4 (also called Pou5f1) undergoes post implantation silencing in a process mediated by the histone methyltransferase (HMT) G9a. Microarray analysis now shows that this enzyme may operate as a master regulator that inactivates multiple early embryonic genes by bringing about methylated-histone H3K9 heterochromatinization and de novo DNA methylation. Genetic studies in differentiating ES cells demonstrate that a point mutation in the G9a SET domain prevents heterochromatinization, but still allows de novo methylation, while biochemical and functional studies indicate that G9a itself is capable of bringing about de novo methylation through its ankyrin (ANK) domain, by recruiting Dnmt3a/3b independently of its HMT activity. These modifications appear to be programmed for carrying out two separate biological functions, with histone methylation blocking target-gene reactivation in the absence of transcriptional repressors, while DNA methylation prevents reprogramming to the undifferentiated state.
PMCID: PMC2581722  PMID: 18953337
14.  MAGE-A1 interacts with adaptor SKIP and the deacetylase HDAC1 to repress transcription 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(14):4340-4350.
MAGE-A1 belongs to a family of 12 genes that are active in various types of tumors and silent in normal tissues except in male germ-line cells. The MAGE-encoded antigens recognized by T cells are highly tumor-specific targets for T cell-oriented cancer immunotherapy. The function of MAGE-A1 is currently unknown. To analyze it, we attempted to identify protein partners of MAGE-A1. Using yeast two-hybrid screening, we detected an interaction between MAGE-A1 and Ski Interacting Protein (SKIP). SKIP is a transcriptional regulator that connects DNA-binding proteins to proteins that either activate or repress transcription. We show that MAGE-A1 inhibits the activity of a SKIP-interacting transactivator, namely the intracellular part of Notch1. Deletion analysis indicated that this inhibition requires the binding of MAGE-A1 to SKIP. Moreover, MAGE-A1 was found to actively repress transcription by binding and recruiting histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1). Our results indicate that by binding to SKIP and by recruiting HDACs, MAGE-A1 can act as a potent transcriptional repressor. MAGE-A1 could therefore participate in the setting of specific gene expression patterns for tumor cell growth or spermatogenesis.
PMCID: PMC514365  PMID: 15316101
15.  The DNA methyltransferases associate with HP1 and the SUV39H1 histone methyltransferase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(9):2305-2312.
The DNA methyltransferases, Dnmts, are the enzymes responsible for methylating DNA in mammals, which leads to gene silencing. Repression by DNA methylation is mediated partly by recruitment of the methyl-CpG-binding protein MeCP2. Recently, MeCP2 was shown to associate and facilitate histone methylation at Lys9 of H3, which is a key epigenetic modification involved in gene silencing. Here, we show that endogenous Dnmt3a associates primarily with histone H3-K9 methyltransferase activity as well as, to a lesser extent, with H3-K4 enzymatic activity. The association with enzymatic activity is mediated by the conserved PHD-like motif of Dnmt3a. The H3-K9 histone methyltransferase that binds Dnmt3a is likely the H3-K9 specific SUV39H1 enzyme since we find that it interacts both in vitro and in vivo with Dnmt3a, using its PHD-like motif. We find that SUV39H1 also binds to Dnmt1 and, consistent with these interactions, SUV39H1 can purify DNA methyltransferase activity from nuclear extracts. In addition, we show that HP1β, a SUV39H1-interacting partner, binds directly to Dnmt1 and Dnmt3a and that native HP1β associates with DNA methyltransferase activity. Our data show a direct connection between the enzymes responsible for DNA methylation and histone methylation. These results further substantiate the notion of a self-reinforcing repressive chromatin state through the interplay between these two global epigenetic modifications.
PMCID: PMC154218  PMID: 12711675
16.  Dnmt3L is a transcriptional repressor that recruits histone deacetylase 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(17):3831-3838.
The Dnmt3L protein belongs to the Dnmt3 family of DNA methyltransferases by virtue of its sequence homology in the plant homeodomain (PHD)-like motif. Dnmt3L is essential for the establishment of maternal genomic imprints and, given its lack of key methyltransferase motifs, is more likely to act as a regulator of methylation rather than as an enzyme that methylates DNA. Here, we show that Dnmt3L, like Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b, interacts both in vitro and in vivo with the histone deacetylase HDAC1. Consistent with the binding to a deacetylase, Dnmt3L purifies histone deacetylase activity from nuclear extracts. We find that Dnmt3L can repress transcription and that this repression is dependent on HDAC1 and is relieved by treatment with the HDAC inhibitor trichostatin A. Binding of Dnmt3L to HDAC1 as well as its repressive function require the PHD-like motif. Our results indicate that Dnmt3L plays a role in transcriptional regulation and that recruitment of the HDAC repressive machinery is a shared and conserved feature of the Dnmt3 family. The fact that, despite the absence of a methyltransferase domain, Dnmt3L retains the capacity to contact deacetylase further substantiates the notion that the Dnmts can repress transcription independently of their methylating activities.
PMCID: PMC137431  PMID: 12202768
17.  Opposite Transcriptional Effects of Cyclic AMP-Responsive Elements in Confluent or p27KIP-Overexpressing Cells versus Serum-Starved or Growing Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(1):409-419.
The minute virus of mice, an autonomous parvovirus, requires entry of host cells into the S phase of the cell cycle for its DNA to be amplified and its genes expressed. This work focuses on the P4 promoter of this parvovirus, which directs expression of the transcription unit encoding the parvoviral nonstructural polypeptides. These notably include protein NS1, necessary for the S-phase-dependent burst of parvoviral DNA amplification and gene expression. The activity of the P4 promoter is shown to be regulated in a cell cycle-dependent manner. At the G1/S-phase transition, the promoter is activated via a cis-acting DNA element which interacts with phase-specific complexes containing the cellular transcription factor E2F. It is inhibited, on the other hand, in cells arrested in G1 due to contact inhibition. This inhibitory effect is not observed in serum-starved cells. It is mediated in cis by cyclic AMP response elements (CREs). Unlike serum-starved cells, confluent cells accumulate the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27, suggesting that the switch from CRE-mediated activation to CRE-mediated repression involves the p27 protein. Accordingly, plasmid-driven overexpression of p27 causes down-modulation of promoter P4 in growing cells, depending on the presence of at least two functional CREs. No such effect is observed with two other cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors, p16 and p21. Given the importance of P4-driven synthesis of protein NS1 in parvoviral DNA amplification and gene expression, the stringent S-phase dependency of promoter P4 is likely a major determinant of the absolute requirement of the minute virus of mice for host cell proliferation.
PMCID: PMC121511  PMID: 9418888

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