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1.  ATRX Dysfunction Induces Replication Defects in Primary Mouse Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92915.
The chromatin remodeling protein ATRX, which targets tandem repetitive DNA, has been shown to be required for expression of the alpha globin genes, for proliferation of a variety of cellular progenitors, for chromosome congression and for the maintenance of telomeres. Mutations in ATRX have recently been identified in tumours which maintain their telomeres by a telomerase independent pathway involving homologous recombination thought to be triggered by DNA damage. It is as yet unknown whether there is a central underlying mechanism associated with ATRX dysfunction which can explain the numerous cellular phenomena observed. There is, however, growing evidence for its role in the replication of various repetitive DNA templates which are thought to have a propensity to form secondary structures. Using a mouse knockout model we demonstrate that ATRX plays a direct role in facilitating DNA replication. Ablation of ATRX alone, although leading to a DNA damage response at telomeres, is not sufficient to trigger the alternative lengthening of telomere pathway in mouse embryonic stem cells.
PMCID: PMC3961441  PMID: 24651726
2.  The Combined Expression Patterns of Ikaros Isoforms Characterize Different Hematological Tumor Subtypes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82411.
A variety of genetic alterations are considered hallmarks of cancer development and progression. The Ikaros gene family, encoding for key transcription factors in hematopoietic development, provides several examples as genetic defects in these genes are associated with the development of different types of leukemia. However, the complex patterns of expression of isoforms in Ikaros family genes has prevented their use as clinical markers.
In this study, we propose the use of the expression profiles of the Ikaros isoforms to classify various hematological tumor diseases. We have standardized a quantitative PCR protocol to estimate the expression levels of the Ikaros gene exons. Our analysis reveals that these levels are associated with specific types of leukemia and we have found differences in the levels of expression relative to five interexonic Ikaros regions for all diseases studied. In conclusion, our method has allowed us to precisely discriminate between B-ALL, CLL and MM cases. Differences between the groups of lymphoid and myeloid pathologies were also identified in the same way.
PMCID: PMC3855751  PMID: 24324784
3.  Identification of Highly Methylated Genes across Various Types of B-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79602.
Epigenetic alterations of gene expression are important in the development of cancer. In this study, we identified genes which are epigenetically altered in major lymphoma types. We used DNA microarray technology to assess changes in gene expression after treatment of 11 lymphoma cell lines with epigenetic drugs. We identified 233 genes with upregulated expression in treated cell lines and with downregulated expression in B-cell lymphoma patient samples (n = 480) when compared to normal B cells (n = 5). The top 30 genes were further analyzed by methylation specific PCR (MSP) in 18 lymphoma cell lines. Seven of the genes were methylated in more than 70% of the cell lines and were further subjected to quantitative MSP in 37 B-cell lymphoma patient samples (diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (activated B-cell like and germinal center B-cell like subtypes), follicular lymphoma and Burkitt`s lymphoma) and normal B lymphocytes from 10 healthy donors. The promoters of DSP, FZD8, KCNH2, and PPP1R14A were methylated in 28%, 67%, 22%, and 78% of the 36 tumor samples, respectively, but not in control samples. Validation using a second series of healthy donor controls (n = 42; normal B cells, peripheral blood mononuclear cells, bone marrow, tonsils and follicular hyperplasia) and fresh-frozen lymphoma biopsies (n = 25), confirmed the results. The DNA methylation biomarker panel consisting of DSP, FZD8, KCNH2, and PPP1R14A was positive in 89% (54/61) of all lymphomas. Receiver operating characteristic analysis to determine the discriminative power between lymphoma and healthy control samples showed a c-statistic of 0.96, indicating a possible role for the biomarker panel in monitoring of lymphoma patients.
PMCID: PMC3834187  PMID: 24260260
4.  Tet2 facilitates the de-repression of myeloid target genes during C/EBPa induced transdifferentiation of pre-B cells 
Molecular cell  2012;48(2):266-276.
The methylcytosine hydroxylase Tet2 has been implicated in hematopoietic differentiation and the formation of myeloid malignancies when mutated. An ideal system to study the role of Tet2 in myelopoeisis is C/EBPa induced transdifferentiation of pre-B cells into macrophages. Here we found that C/EBPa binds to upstream regions of Tet2 and that the gene becomes activated. Tet2 knockdowns impaired the upregulation of macrophage markers as well as phagocytic capacity, suggesting that the enzyme is required for both early and late stage myeloid differentiation. A slightly weaker effect was seen in primary cells with a Tet2 ablation. Expression arrays of transdifferentiating cells with Tet2 knockdowns permitted the identification of a small subset of myeloid genes whose upregulation was blunted. Activation of these target genes was accompanied by rapid increases of promoter hydroxy-methylation. Our observations indicate that Tet2 helps C/EBPa rapidly de-repress myeloid genes during the conversion of pre-B cells into macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3667550  PMID: 22981865
Epigenetics; Transdifferentiation; DNA methylation; DNA hydroxymethylation
5.  Epstein–Barr virus-mediated transformation of B cells induces global chromatin changes independent to the acquisition of proliferation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(1):249-263.
Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) infects and transforms human primary B cells inducing indefinite proliferation. To investigate the potential participation of chromatin mechanisms during the EBV-mediated transformation of resting B cells we performed an analysis of global changes in histone modifications. We observed a remarkable decrease and redistribution of heterochromatin marks including H4K20me3, H3K27me3 and H3K9me3. Loss of H4K20me3 and H3K9me3 occurred at constitutive heterochromatin repeats. For H3K27me3 and H3K9me3, comparison of ChIP-seq data revealed a decrease in these marks in thousands of genes, including clusters of HOX and ZNF genes, respectively. Moreover, DNase-seq data comparison between resting and EBV-transformed B cells revealed increased endonuclease accessibility in thousands of genomic sites. We observed that both loss of H3K27me3 and increased accessibility are associated with transcriptional activation. These changes only occurred in B cells transformed with EBV and not in those stimulated to proliferate with CD40L/IL-4, despite their similarities in the cell pathways involved and proliferation rates. In fact, B cells infected with EBNA-2 deficient EBV, which have much lower proliferation rates, displayed similar decreases for heterochromatic histone marks. Our study describes a novel phenomenon related to transformation of B cells, and highlights its independence of the pure acquisition of proliferation.
PMCID: PMC3874198  PMID: 24097438
6.  The T-Cell Oncogene Tal2 Is a Target of PU.1 and Upregulated during Osteoclastogenesis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e76637.
Transcription factors play a crucial role in regulating differentiation processes during human life and are important in disease. The basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors Tal1 and Lyl1 play a major role in the regulation of gene expression in the hematopoietic system and are involved in human leukemia. Tal2, which belongs to the same family of transcription factors as Tal1 and Lyl1, is also involved in human leukaemia. However, little is known regarding the expression and regulation of Tal2 in hematopoietic cells. Here we show that Tal2 is expressed in hematopoietic cells of the myeloid lineage. Interestingly, we found that usage of the Tal2 promoter is different in human and mouse cells. Two promoters, hP1 and hP2 drive Tal2 expression in human erythroleukemia K562 cells, however in mouse RAW cells only the mP1 promoter is used. Furthermore, we found that Tal2 expression is upregulated during oesteoclastogenesis. We show that Tal2 is a direct target gene of the myeloid transcription factor PU.1, which is a key transcription factor for osteoclast gene expression. Strikingly, PU.1 binding to the P1 promoter is conserved between mouse and human, but PU.1 binding to P2 was only detected in human K562 cells. Additionally, we provide evidence that Tal2 influences the expression of the osteoclastic differentiation gene TRACP. These findings provide novel insight into the expression control of Tal2 in hematopoietic cells and reveal a function of Tal2 as a regulator of gene expression during osteoclast differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3784441  PMID: 24086757
7.  A Computational Model for Histone Mark Propagation Reproduces the Distribution of Heterochromatin in Different Human Cell Types 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73818.
Chromatin is a highly compact and dynamic nuclear structure that consists of DNA and associated proteins. The main organizational unit is the nucleosome, which consists of a histone octamer with DNA wrapped around it. Histone proteins are implicated in the regulation of eukaryote genes and they carry numerous reversible post-translational modifications that control DNA-protein interactions and the recruitment of chromatin binding proteins. Heterochromatin, the transcriptionally inactive part of the genome, is densely packed and contains histone H3 that is methylated at Lys 9 (H3K9me). The propagation of H3K9me in nucleosomes along the DNA in chromatin is antagonizing by methylation of H3 Lysine 4 (H3K4me) and acetylations of several lysines, which is related to euchromatin and active genes. We show that the related histone modifications form antagonized domains on a coarse scale. These histone marks are assumed to be initiated within distinct nucleation sites in the DNA and to propagate bi-directionally. We propose a simple computer model that simulates the distribution of heterochromatin in human chromosomes. The simulations are in agreement with previously reported experimental observations from two different human cell lines. We reproduced different types of barriers between heterochromatin and euchromatin providing a unified model for their function. The effect of changes in the nucleation site distribution and of propagation rates were studied. The former occurs mainly with the aim of (de-)activation of single genes or gene groups and the latter has the power of controlling the transcriptional programs of entire chromosomes. Generally, the regulatory program of gene transcription is controlled by the distribution of nucleation sites along the DNA string.
PMCID: PMC3777982  PMID: 24069233
8.  DNA Methylation of Alternative Promoters Directs Tissue Specific Expression of Epac2 Isoforms 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67925.
Epac 1 and Epac 2 (Epac1/2; exchange factors directly activated by cAMP) are multidomain proteins that mediate cellular responses upon activation by the signaling molecule cAMP. Epac1 is ubiquitously expressed, whereas Epac2 exhibits a restricted expression pattern. The gene encoding Epac2 gives rise to at least three protein isoforms (Epac2A, Epac2B and Epac2C) that exhibit confined tissue and cell specific expression profiles. Here, we describe alternative promoter usage for the different isoforms of Epac2, and demonstrate that the activity of these promoters depend on the DNA methylation status. Bisulfite sequencing demonstrated that the level of methylation of the promoters in different tissues correlates with Epac2 isoform expression. The presented data indicate that the tissue-specific expression of the Epac2 isoforms is epigenetically regulated, and identify tissue-specific differentially methylated promoter regions within the Epac2 locus that are essential for its transcriptional control.
PMCID: PMC3701594  PMID: 23861833
9.  E47 and Id1 Interplay in Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59948.
E12/E47 proteins (encoded by E2A gene) are members of the class I basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors (also known as E proteins). E47 has been described as repressor of E-cadherin and inducer of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). We reported previously that EMT mediated by E47 in MDCK cells occurs with a concomitant overexpression of Id1 and Id3 proteins. Id proteins belong to class V of HLH factors that lack the basic domain; they dimerise with E proteins and prevent their DNA interaction, thus, acting as dominant negative of E proteins. Here, we show that E47 interacts with Id1 in E47 overexpressing MDCK cells that underwent a full EMT as well as in mesenchymal breast carcinoma and melanoma cell lines. By conducting chromatin immunoprecipitation assays we demonstrate that E47 binds directly to the endogenous E-cadherin promoter of mesenchymal MDCK-E47 cells in a complex devoid of Id1. Importantly, our data suggest that both E47 and Id1 are required to maintain the mesenchymal phenotype of MDCK-E47 cells. These data support the collaboration between E47 and Id1 in the maintenance of EMT by mechanisms independent of the dominant negative action of Id1 on E47 binding to E-cadherin promoter. Finally, the analysis of several N0 breast tumour series indicates that the expression of E47 and ID1 is significantly associated with the basal-like phenotype supporting the biological significance of the present findings.
PMCID: PMC3608585  PMID: 23555842
10.  DNA Methylation Dynamics in Blood after Hematopoietic Cell Transplant 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56931.
Epigenetic deregulation is considered a common hallmark of cancer. Nevertheless, recent publications have demonstrated its association with a large array of human diseases. Here, we explore the DNA methylation dynamics in blood samples during hematopoietic cell transplant and how they are affected by pathophysiological events during transplant evolution. We analyzed global DNA methylation in a cohort of 47 patients with allogenic transplant up to 12 months post-transplant. Recipients stably maintained the donor’s global methylation levels after transplant. Nonetheless, global methylation is affected by chimerism status. Methylation analysis of promoters revealed that methylation in more than 200 genes is altered 1 month post-transplant when compared with non-pathological methylation levels in the donor. This number decreased by 6 months post-transplant. Finally, we analyzed methylation in IFN-γ, FASL, IL-10, and PRF1 and found association with the severity of the acute graft-versus-host disease. Our results provide strong evidence that methylation changes in blood are linked to underlying physiological events and demonstrate that DNA methylation analysis is a viable strategy for the study of transplantation and for development of biomarkers.
PMCID: PMC3579934  PMID: 23451113
11.  The B cell transcription program mediates hypomethylation and overexpression of key genes in Epstein-Barr virus-associated proliferative conversion 
Genome Biology  2013;14(1):R3.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is a well characterized etiopathogenic factor for a variety of immune-related conditions, including lymphomas, lymphoproliferative disorders and autoimmune diseases. EBV-mediated transformation of resting B cells to proliferating lymphoblastoid cells occurs in early stages of infection and is an excellent model for investigating the mechanisms associated with acquisition of unlimited growth.
We investigated the effects of experimental EBV infection of B cells on DNA methylation profiles by using high-throughput analysis. Remarkably, we observed hypomethylation of around 250 genes, but no hypermethylation. Hypomethylation did not occur at repetitive sequences, consistent with the absence of genomic instability in lymphoproliferative cells. Changes in methylation only occurred after cell divisions started, without the participation of the active demethylation machinery, and were concomitant with acquisition by B cells of the ability to proliferate. Gene Ontology analysis, expression profiling, and high-throughput analysis of the presence of transcription factor binding motifs and occupancy revealed that most genes undergoing hypomethylation are active and display the presence of NF-κB p65 and other B cell-specific transcription factors. Promoter hypomethylation was associated with upregulation of genes relevant for the phenotype of proliferating lymphoblasts. Interestingly, pharmacologically induced demethylation increased the efficiency of transformation of resting B cells to lymphoblastoid cells, consistent with productive cooperation between hypomethylation and lymphocyte proliferation.
Our data provide novel clues on the role of the B cell transcription program leading to DNA methylation changes, which we find to be key to the EBV-associated conversion of resting B cells to proliferating lymphoblasts.
PMCID: PMC3663113  PMID: 23320978
12.  Crystal Structure of the Human SUV39H1 Chromodomain and Its Recognition of Histone H3K9me2/3 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52977.
SUV39H1, the first identified histone lysine methyltransferase in human, is involved in chromatin modification and gene regulation. SUV39H1 contains a chromodomain in its N-terminus, which potentially plays a role in methyl-lysine recognition and SUV39H1 targeting. In this study, the structure of the chromodomain of human SUV39H1 was determined by X-ray crystallography. The SUV39H1 chromodomain displays a generally conserved structure fold compared with other solved chromodomains. However, different from other chromodomains, the SUV39H1 chromodomain possesses a much longer helix at its C-terminus. Furthermore, the SUV39H1 chromodomain was shown to recognize histone H3K9me2/3 specifically.
PMCID: PMC3532415  PMID: 23285239
13.  Asthma Discordance in Twins Is Linked to Epigenetic Modifications of T Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48796.
T cells mediate the inflammatory responses observed in asthma among genetically susceptible individuals and have been suspected to be prone to epigenetic regulation. However, these relationships are not well established from past clinical studies that have had limited capacity to control for the effects of variable genetic predisposition and early environmental exposures. Relying on a cohort of monozygotic twins discordant for asthma we sought to determine if epigenetic modifications in T cells were associated with current asthma and explored whether such modifications were associated with second hand smoke exposures. Our study was conducted in a monozygotic twin cohort of adult twin pairs (n = 21) all discordant for asthma. Regulatory T cell (Treg) and effector T cell (Teff) subsets were assessed for levels of cellular function, protein expression, gene expression and CpG methylation within Forkhead box P3 (FOXP3) and interferon gamma-γ (IFNγ) loci. Comparisons by asthma and current report of exposure to second hand smoke were made. Treg from asthmatic discordant twins demonstrated decreased FOXP3 protein expression and impaired Treg function that was associated with increased levels of CpG methylation within the FOXP3 locus when compared to their non-asthmatic twin partner. In parallel, Teff from discordant asthmatic twins demonstrated increased methylation of the IFNγ locus, decreased IFNγ expression and reduced Teff function when compared to Teff from the non-asthmatic twin. Finally, report of current exposure to second hand smoke was associated with modifications in both Treg and Teff at the transcriptional level among asthmatics. The results of the current study provide evidence for differential function of T cell subsets in monozygotic twins discordant for asthma that are regulated by changes in DNA methylation. Our preliminary data suggest exposure to second hand smoke may augment the modified T cell responses associated with asthma.
PMCID: PMC3511472  PMID: 23226205
14.  A Comparison of the Whole Genome Approach of MeDIP-Seq to the Targeted Approach of the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip® for Methylome Profiling 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50233.
DNA methylation is one of the most studied epigenetic marks in the human genome, with the result that the desire to map the human methylome has driven the development of several methods to map DNA methylation on a genomic scale. Our study presents the first comparison of two of these techniques - the targeted approach of the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip® with the immunoprecipitation and sequencing-based method, MeDIP-seq. Both methods were initially validated with respect to bisulfite sequencing as the gold standard and then assessed in terms of coverage, resolution and accuracy. The regions of the methylome that can be assayed by both methods and those that can only be assayed by one method were determined and the discovery of differentially methylated regions (DMRs) by both techniques was examined. Our results show that the Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip® and MeDIP-seq show a good positive correlation (Spearman correlation of 0.68) on a genome-wide scale and can both be used successfully to determine differentially methylated loci in RefSeq genes, CpG islands, shores and shelves. MeDIP-seq however, allows a wider interrogation of methylated regions of the human genome, including thousands of non-RefSeq genes and repetitive elements, all of which may be of importance in disease. In our study MeDIP-seq allowed the detection of 15,709 differentially methylated regions, nearly twice as many as the array-based method (8070), which may result in a more comprehensive study of the methylome.
PMCID: PMC3510246  PMID: 23209683
15.  Activation-Induced Cytidine Deaminase Alters the Subcellular Localization of Tet Family Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45031.
Activation-induced cytidine deminase (Aid), a unique enzyme that deaminates cytosine in DNA, shuttles between the nucleus and the cytoplasm. A recent study proposed a novel function of Aid in active DNA demethylation via deamination of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, which is converted from 5-methylcytosine by the Ten-eleven translocation (Tet) family of enzymes. In this study, we examined the effect of simultaneous expression of Aid and Tet family proteins on the subcellular localization of each protein. We found that overexpressed Aid is mainly localized in the cytoplasm, whereas Tet1 and Tet2 are localized in the nucleus, and Tet3 is localized in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus. However, nuclear Tet proteins were gradually translocated to the cytoplasm when co-expressed with Aid. We also show that Aid-mediated translocation of Tet proteins is associated with Aid shuttling. Here we propose a possible role for Aid as a regulator of the subcellular localization of Tet family proteins.
PMCID: PMC3444495  PMID: 23028748
16.  Association between Genetic Variants in DNA and Histone Methylation and Telomere Length 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40504.
Telomere length, a biomarker of aging and age-related diseases, exhibits wide variation between individuals. Common genetic variation may explain some of the individual differences in telomere length. To date, however, only a few genetic variants have been identified in the previous genome-wide association studies. As emerging data suggest epigenetic regulation of telomere length, we investigated 72 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 46 genes that involve DNA and histone methylation as well as telomerase and telomere-binding proteins and DNA damage response. Genotyping and quantification of telomere length were performed in blood samples from 989 non-Hispanic white participants of the Sister Study, a prospective cohort of women aged 35–74 years. The association of each SNP with logarithmically-transformed relative telomere length was estimated using multivariate linear regression. Six SNPs were associated with relative telomere length in blood cells with p-values<0.05 (uncorrected for multiple comparisons). The minor alleles of BHMT rs3733890 G>A (p = 0.041), MTRR rs2966952 C>T (p = 0.002) and EHMT2 rs558702 G>A (p = 0.008) were associated with shorter telomeres, while minor alleles of ATM rs1801516 G>A (p = 0.031), MTR rs1805087 A>G (p = 0.038) and PRMT8 rs12299470 G>A (p = 0.019) were associated with longer telomeres. Five of these SNPs are located in genes coding for proteins involved in DNA and histone methylation. Our results are consistent with recent findings that chromatin structure is epigenetically regulated and may influence the genomic integrity of telomeric region and telomere length maintenance. Larger studies with greater coverage of the genes implicated in DNA methylation and histone modifications are warranted to replicate these findings.
PMCID: PMC3394714  PMID: 22792358
17.  HEMD: An Integrated Tool of Human Epigenetic Enzymes and Chemical Modulators for Therapeutics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39917.
Epigenetic mechanisms mainly include DNA methylation, post-translational modifications of histones, chromatin remodeling and non-coding RNAs. All of these processes are mediated and controlled by enzymes. Abnormalities of the enzymes are involved in a variety of complex human diseases. Recently, potent natural or synthetic chemicals are utilized to establish the quantitative contributions of epigenetic regulation through the enzymes and provide novel insight for developing new therapeutics. However, the development of more specific and effective epigenetic therapeutics requires a more complete understanding of the chemical epigenomic landscape.
Here, we present a human epigenetic enzyme and modulator database (HEMD), the database which provides a central resource for the display, search, and analysis of the structure, function, and related annotation for human epigenetic enzymes and chemical modulators focused on epigenetic therapeutics. Currently, HEMD contains 269 epigenetic enzymes and 4377 modulators in three categories (activators, inhibitors, and regulators). Enzymes are annotated with detailed description of epigenetic mechanisms, catalytic processes, and related diseases, and chemical modulators with binding sites, pharmacological effect, and therapeutic uses. Integrating the information of epigenetic enzymes in HEMD should allow for the prediction of conserved features for proteins and could potentially classify them as ideal targets for experimental validation. In addition, modulators curated in HEMD can be used to investigate potent epigenetic targets for the query compound and also help chemists to implement structural modifications for the design of novel epigenetic drugs.
HEMD could be a platform and a starting point for biologists and medicinal chemists for furthering research on epigenetic therapeutics. HEMD is freely available at
PMCID: PMC3382562  PMID: 22761927
18.  Primary Transgenic Bovine Cells and Their Rejuvenated Cloned Equivalents Show Transgene-Specific Epigenetic Differences 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35619.
Cell-mediated transgenesis, based on somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), provides the opportunity to shape the genetic make-up of cattle. Bovine primary fetal fibroblasts, commonly used cells for SCNT, have a limited lifespan, and complex genetic modifications that require sequential transfections can be challenging time and cost-wise. To overcome these limitations, SCNT is frequently used to rejuvenate the cell lines and restore exhausted growth potential. We have designed a construct to be used in a 2-step cassette exchange experiment. Our transgene contains a puromycin resistance marker gene and an enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP) expression cassette, both driven by a strong mammalian promoter, and flanked by loxP sites and sequences from the bovine β-casein locus. Several transgenic cell lines were generated by random insertion into primary bovine cell lines. Two of these original cell lines were rederived by SCNT and new primary cells, with the same genetic makeup as the original donors, were established. While the original cell lines were puromycin-resistant and had a characteristic EGFP expression profile, all rejuvenated cell lines were sensitive to puromycin, and displayed varied EGFP expression, indicative of various degrees of silencing. When the methylation states of individual CpG sites within the transgene were analyzed, a striking increase in transgene-specific methylation was observed in all rederived cell lines. The results indicate that original transgenic donor cells and their rejuvenated derivatives may not be equivalent and differ in the functionality of their transgene sequences.
PMCID: PMC3332029  PMID: 22532863
19.  TET2 Mutations Are Associated with Specific 5-Methylcytosine and 5-Hydroxymethylcytosine Profiles in Patients with Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31605.
Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) has recently been associated with a high incidence of diverse mutations in genes such as TET2 or EZH2 that are implicated in epigenetic mechanisms. We have performed genome-wide DNA methylation arrays and mutational analysis of TET2, IDH1, IDH2, EZH2 and JAK2 in a group of 24 patients with CMML. 249 genes were differentially methylated between CMML patients and controls. Using Ingenuity pathway analysis, we identified enrichment in a gene network centered around PLC, JNK and ERK suggesting that these pathways, whose deregulation has beenrecently described in CMML, are affected by epigenetic mechanisms. Mutations of TET2, JAK2 and EZH2 were found in 15 patients (65%), 4 patients (17%) and 1 patient (4%) respectively while no mutations in the IDH1 and IDH2 genes were identified. Interestingly, patients with wild type TET2 clustered separately from patients with TET2 mutations, showed a higher degree of hypermethylation and were associated with higher risk karyotypes. Our results demonstrate the presence of aberrant DNA methylation in CMML and identifies TET2 mutant CMML as a biologically distinct disease subtype with a different epigenetic profile.
PMCID: PMC3273467  PMID: 22328940
20.  microRNA-152 Mediates DNMT1-Regulated DNA Methylation in the Estrogen Receptor α Gene 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30635.
Estrogen receptor α (ERα) has been shown to protect against atherosclerosis. Methylation of the ERα gene can reduce ERα expression leading to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Recently, microRNAs have been found to regulate DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) and thus control methylation status in several genes. We first searched for microRNAs involved in DNMT-associated DNA methylation in the ERα gene. We also tested whether statin and a traditional Chinese medicine (San-Huang-Xie-Xin-Tang, SHXXT) could exert a therapeutic effect on microRNA, DNMT and ERα methylation.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The ERα expression was decreased and ERα methylation was increased in LPS-treated human aortic smooth muscle cells (HASMCs) and the aorta from rats under a high-fat diet. microRNA-152 was found to be down regulated in the LPS-treated HASMCs. We validated that microRNA-152 can knock down DNMT1 in HASMCs leading to hypermethylation of the ERα gene. Statin had no effect on microRNA-152, DNMT1 or ERα expression. On the contrary, SHXXT could restore microRNA-152, decrease DNMT1 and increase ERα expression in both cellular and animal studies.
The present study showed that microRNA-152 decreases under the pro-atherosclerotic conditions. The reduced microRNA-152 can lose an inhibitory effect on DNA methyltransferase, which leads to hypermethylation of the ERα gene and a decrease of ERα level. Although statin can not reverse these cascade proatherosclerotic changes, the SHXXT shows a promising effect to inhibit this unwanted signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3266286  PMID: 22295098
21.  Long-Range Autocorrelations of CpG Islands in the Human Genome 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29889.
In this paper, we use a statistical estimator developed in astrophysics to study the distribution and organization of features of the human genome. Using the human reference sequence we quantify the global distribution of CpG islands (CGI) in each chromosome and demonstrate that the organization of the CGI across a chromosome is non-random, exhibits surprisingly long range correlations (10 Mb) and varies significantly among chromosomes. These correlations of CGI summarize functional properties of the genome that are not captured when considering variation in any particular separate (and local) feature. The demonstration of the proposed methods to quantify the organization of CGI in the human genome forms the basis of future studies. The most illuminating of these will assess the potential impact on phenotypic variation of inter-individual variation in the organization of the functional features of the genome within and among chromosomes, and among individuals for particular chromosomes.
PMCID: PMC3256200  PMID: 22253817
23.  Pre-B cell to macrophage transdifferentiation without significant promoter DNA methylation changes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(5):1954-1968.
Transcription factor-induced lineage reprogramming or transdifferentiation experiments are essential for understanding the plasticity of differentiated cells. These experiments helped to define the specific role of transcription factors in conferring cell identity and played a key role in the development of the regenerative medicine field. We here investigated the acquisition of DNA methylation changes during C/EBPα-induced pre-B cell to macrophage transdifferentiation. Unexpectedly, cell lineage conversion occurred without significant changes in DNA methylation not only in key B cell- and macrophage-specific genes but also throughout the entire set of genes differentially methylated between the two parental cell types. In contrast, active and repressive histone modification marks changed according to the expression levels of these genes. We also demonstrated that C/EBPα and RNA Pol II are associated with the methylated promoters of macrophage-specific genes in reprogrammed macrophages without inducing methylation changes. Our findings not only provide insights about the extent and hierarchy of epigenetic events in pre-B cell to macrophage transdifferentiation but also show an important difference to reprogramming towards pluripotency where promoter DNA demethylation plays a pivotal role.
PMCID: PMC3299990  PMID: 22086955
24.  Epigenetic Subgroups of Esophageal and Gastric Adenocarcinoma with Differential GATA5 DNA Methylation Associated with Clinical and Lifestyle Factors 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25985.
Adenocarcinomas located near the gastroesophageal junction have unclear etiology and are difficult to classify. We used DNA methylation analysis to identify subtype-specific markers and new subgroups of gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas, and studied their association with epidemiological risk factors and clinical outcomes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used logistic regression models and unsupervised hierarchical cluster analysis of 74 DNA methylation markers on 45 tumor samples (44 patients) of esophageal and gastric adenocarcinomas obtained from a population-based case-control study to uncover epigenetic markers and cluster groups of gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas. No distinct epigenetic differences were evident between subtypes of gastric and esophageal cancers. However, we identified two gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma subclusters based on DNA methylation profiles. Group membership was best predicted by GATA5 DNA methylation status. We analyzed the associations between these two epigenetic groups and exposure using logistic regression, and the associations with survival time using Cox regression in a larger set of 317 tumor samples (278 patients). There were more males with esophageal and gastric cardia cancers in Cluster Group 1 characterized by higher GATA5 DNA methylation values (all p<0.05). This group also showed associations of borderline statistical significance with having ever smoked (p-value = 0.07), high body mass index (p-value = 0.06), and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (p-value = 0.07). Subjects in cluster Group 1 showed better survival than those in Group 2 after adjusting for tumor differentiation grade, but this was not found to be independent of tumor stage.
DNA methylation profiling can be used in population-based studies to identify epigenetic subclasses of gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas and class-specific DNA methylation markers that can be linked to epidemiological data and clinical outcome. Two new epigenetic subgroups of gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas were identified that differ to some extent in their survival rates, risk factors of exposure, and GATA5 DNA methylation.
PMCID: PMC3197593  PMID: 22028801
25.  Genome-Wide Screen for Differential DNA Methylation Associated with Neural Cell Differentiation in Mouse 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26002.
Cellular differentiation involves widespread epigenetic reprogramming, including modulation of DNA methylation patterns. Using Differential Methylation Hybridization (DMH) in combination with a custom DMH array containing 51,243 features covering more than 16,000 murine genes, we carried out a genome-wide screen for cell- and tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) in undifferentiated embryonic stem cells (ESCs), in in-vitro induced neural stem cells (NSCs) and 8 differentiated embryonic and adult tissues. Unsupervised clustering of the generated data showed distinct cell- and tissue-specific DNA methylation profiles, revealing 202 significant tDMRs (p<0.005) between ESCs and NSCs and a further 380 tDMRs (p<0.05) between NSCs/ESCs and embryonic brain tissue. We validated these tDMRs using direct bisulfite sequencing (DBS) and methylated DNA immunoprecipitation on chip (MeDIP-chip). Gene ontology (GO) analysis of the genes associated with these tDMRs showed significant (absolute Z score>1.96) enrichment for genes involved in neural differentiation, including, for example, Jag1 and Tcf4. Our results provide robust evidence for the relevance of DNA methylation in early neural development and identify novel marker candidates for neural cell differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3196508  PMID: 22028803

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