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1.  Comprehensive analyses of imprinted differentially methylated regions reveal epigenetic and genetic characteristics in hepatoblastoma 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:608.
Aberrant methylation at imprinted differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in human 11p15.5 has been reported in many tumors including hepatoblastoma. However, the methylation status of imprinted DMRs in imprinted loci scattered through the human genome has not been analyzed yet in any tumors.
The methylation statuses of 33 imprinted DMRs were analyzed in 12 hepatoblastomas and adjacent normal liver tissue by MALDI-TOF MS and pyrosequencing. Uniparental disomy (UPD) and copy number abnormalities were investigated with DNA polymorphisms.
Among 33 DMRs analyzed, 18 showed aberrant methylation in at least 1 tumor. There was large deviation in the incidence of aberrant methylation among the DMRs. KvDMR1 and IGF2-DMR0 were the most frequently hypomethylated DMRs. INPP5Fv2-DMR and RB1-DMR were hypermethylated with high frequencies. Hypomethylation was observed at certain DMRs not only in tumors but also in a small number of adjacent histologically normal liver tissue, whereas hypermethylation was observed only in tumor samples. The methylation levels of long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1) did not show large differences between tumor tissue and normal liver controls. Chromosomal abnormalities were also found in some tumors. 11p15.5 and 20q13.3 loci showed the frequent occurrence of both genetic and epigenetic alterations.
Our analyses revealed tumor-specific aberrant hypermethylation at some imprinted DMRs in 12 hepatoblastomas with additional suggestion for the possibility of hypomethylation prior to tumor development. Some loci showed both genetic and epigenetic alterations with high frequencies. These findings will aid in understanding the development of hepatoblastoma.
PMCID: PMC3880457  PMID: 24373183
Hepatoblastoma; Genomic imprinting; Differentially methylated region; DNA methylation
2.  Ash1l Methylates Lys36 of Histone H3 Independently of Transcriptional Elongation to Counteract Polycomb Silencing 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(11):e1003897.
Molecular mechanisms for the establishment of transcriptional memory are poorly understood. 5,6-dichloro-1-D-ribofuranosyl-benzimidazole (DRB) is a P-TEFb kinase inhibitor that artificially induces the poised RNA polymerase II (RNAPII), thereby manifesting intermediate steps for the establishment of transcriptional activation. Here, using genetics and DRB, we show that mammalian Absent, small, or homeotic discs 1-like (Ash1l), a member of the trithorax group proteins, methylates Lys36 of histone H3 to promote the establishment of Hox gene expression by counteracting Polycomb silencing. Importantly, we found that Ash1l-dependent Lys36 di-, tri-methylation of histone H3 in a coding region and exclusion of Polycomb group proteins occur independently of transcriptional elongation in embryonic stem (ES) cells, although both were previously thought to be consequences of transcription. Genome-wide analyses of histone H3 Lys36 methylation under DRB treatment have suggested that binding of the retinoic acid receptor (RAR) to a certain genomic region promotes trimethylation in the RAR-associated gene independent of its ongoing transcription. Moreover, DRB treatment unveils a parallel response between Lys36 methylation of histone H3 and occupancy of either Tip60 or Mof in a region-dependent manner. We also found that Brg1 is another key player involved in the response. Our results uncover a novel regulatory cascade orchestrated by Ash1l with RAR and provide insights into mechanisms underlying the establishment of the transcriptional activation that counteracts Polycomb silencing.
Author Summary
Transcriptional mechanisms in eukaryotes are composed of numerous consecutive steps, including chromatin modification and remodeling. Recent reports using yeast genetics have revealed that Lys36 methylation of histone H3, a hallmark of the active gene, is a consequence of transcriptional elongation. Similarly, a report using Drosophila genetics showed that exclusion of the Polycomb repressive complexes, general repressor complexes that regulate development and cellular differentiation, is another consequence of transcription. Here, we provide evidence that these causal relationships are not really general. By ceasing ongoing transcription at a certain step using an inhibitor in combination with mouse genetics, we have identified novel intermediate steps of transcription: Ash1l-mediated Lys36 methylation of histone H3 and subsequent exclusion of the Polycomb complexes that occur independently of transcriptional elongation. Furthermore, we show that binding of a nuclear receptor may promote trimethylation of Lys36 in its associated gene independent of its ongoing transcription. In this paper, we detail previously unknown key machineries orchestrated against Polycomb silencing, providing an innovative view of the mechanisms involved in the establishment of transcriptional memory.
PMCID: PMC3820749  PMID: 24244179
3.  Role of DNA Methylation and Histone H3 Lysine 27 Methylation in Tissue-Specific Imprinting of Mouse Grb10▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;27(2):732-742.
Mouse Grb10 is a tissue-specific imprinted gene with promoter-specific expression. In most tissues, Grb10 is expressed exclusively from the major-type promoter of the maternal allele, whereas in the brain, it is expressed predominantly from the brain type promoter of the paternal allele. Such reciprocally imprinted expression in the brain and other tissues is thought to be regulated by DNA methylation and the Polycomb group (PcG) protein Eed. To investigate how DNA methylation and chromatin remodeling by PcG proteins coordinate tissue-specific imprinting of Grb10, we analyzed epigenetic modifications associated with Grb10 expression in cultured brain cells. Reverse transcriptase PCR analysis revealed that the imprinted paternal expression of Grb10 in the brain implied neuron-specific and developmental stage-specific expression from the paternal brain type promoter, whereas in glial cells and fibroblasts, Grb10 was reciprocally expressed from the maternal major-type promoter. The cell-specific imprinted expression was not directly related to allele-specific DNA methylation in the promoters because the major-type promoter remained biallelically hypomethylated regardless of its activity, whereas gametic DNA methylation in the brain type promoter was maintained during differentiation. Histone modification analysis showed that allelic methylation of histone H3 lysine 4 and H3 lysine 9 were associated with gametic DNA methylation in the brain type promoter, whereas that of H3 lysine 27 regulated by the Eed PcG complex was detected in the paternal major-type promoter, corresponding to its allele-specific silencing. Here, we propose a molecular model that gametic DNA methylation and chromatin remodeling by PcG proteins during cell differentiation cause tissue-specific imprinting in embryonic tissues.
PMCID: PMC1800802  PMID: 17101788
4.  ZAC, LIT1 (KCNQ1OT1) and p57KIP2 (CDKN1C) are in an imprinted gene network that may play a role in Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;33(8):2650-2660.
Loss of genomic imprinting is involved in a number of developmental abnormalities and cancers. ZAC is an imprinted gene expressed from the paternal allele of chromosome 6q24 within a region known to harbor a tumor suppressor gene for several types of neoplasia. p57KIP2 (CDKN1C) is a maternally expressed gene located on chromosome 11p15.5 which encodes a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor that may also act as a tumor suppressor gene. Mutations in ZAC and p57KIP2 have been implicated in transient neonatal diabetes mellitus (TNDB) and Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome, respectively. Patients with these diseases share many characteristics. Here we show that mouse Zac1 and p57Kip2 have a strikingly similar expression pattern. ZAC, a sequence-specific DNA-binding protein, binds within the CpG island of LIT1 (KCNQ1OT1), a paternally expressed, anti-sense RNA thought to negatively regulate p57KIP2 in cis. ZAC induces LIT1 transcription in a methylation-dependent manner. Our data suggest that ZAC may regulate p57KIP2 through LIT1, forming part of a novel signaling pathway regulating cell growth. Mutations in ZAC may, therefore, contribute to Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome. Furthermore, we find changes in DNA methylation at the LIT1 putative imprinting control region in two patients with TNDB.
PMCID: PMC1097765  PMID: 15888726
5.  The Mouse Murr1 Gene Is Imprinted in the Adult Brain, Presumably Due to Transcriptional Interference by the Antisense-Oriented U2af1-rs1 Gene 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(1):270-279.
The mouse Murr1 gene contains an imprinted gene, U2af1-rs1, in its first intron. U2af1-rs1 shows paternal allele-specific expression and is transcribed in the direction opposite to that of the Murr1 gene. In contrast to a previous report of biallelic expression of Murr1 in neonatal mice, we have found that the maternal allele is expressed predominantly in the adult brain and also preferentially in other adult tissues. This maternal-predominant expression is not observed in embryonic and neonatal brains. In situ hybridization experiments that used the adult brain indicated that Murr1 gene was maternally expressed in neuronal cells in all regions of the brain. We analyzed the developmental change in the expression levels of both Murr1 and U2af1-rs1 in the brain and liver, and we propose that the maternal-predominant expression of Murr1 results from transcriptional interference of the gene by U2af1-rs1 through the Murr1 promoter region.
PMCID: PMC303337  PMID: 14673161
6.  The Human ASCL2 Gene Escaping Genomic Imprinting and Its Expression Pattern 
The mouse achaete-scute homolog-2 gene (Ascl2 or Mash2) encodes a transcription factor playing a role in the development of the trophoblast. The Ascl2 is an imprinted gene with maternal expression and assigned to an imprinting gene cluster region (ICR) at a distal region of mouse chromosome 7. We previously isolated a phage clone carrying the human homolog, ASCL2, and mapped it to human chromosome 11p15.5, a human ICR. In the present study, we demonstrate the expression patterns of the human ASCL2 in the fetus at a stage between first and second trimesters and in the placental tissues. In addition, it has been shown that the human ASCL2 gene escapes genomic imprinting.
PMCID: PMC3468234  PMID: 12099555
ASCL2; imprinting; expression; placenta

Results 1-6 (6)