The Smchd1 gene encodes a large protein with homology to the SMC family of proteins involved in chromosome condensation and cohesion. Previous studies have found that Smchd1 has an important role in CpG island (CGI) methylation on the inactive X chromosome (Xi) and in stable silencing of some Xi genes. In this study, using genome-wide expression analysis, we showed that Smchd1 is required for the silencing of around 10% of the genes on Xi, apparently independent of CGI hypomethylation, and, moreover, that these genes nonrandomly occur in clusters. Additionally, we found that Smchd1 is required for CpG island methylation and silencing at a cluster of four imprinted genes in the Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) locus on chromosome 7 and genes from the protocadherin-alpha and -beta clusters. All of the affected autosomal loci display developmentally regulated brain-specific methylation patterns which are lost in Smchd1 homozygous mutants. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the function of Smchd1 in epigenetic regulation of gene expression.
Experiments on seven vertebrates suggest that identifying the locations of islands of non-methylated DNA provides more insights into evolutionarily-conserved epigenetic regulatory elements than studies of CpG islands.
CpG islands; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Chromatin; Evolutionary conservation; Chicken; Human; Mouse
While DNA methylation plays a role in T-helper (Th) cell maturation, its potential dysregulation in the non-atopic Th1-polarized systemic inflammation observed in obesity-associated asthma is unknown. We studied DNA methylation epigenome-wide in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 8 obese asthmatic pre-adolescent children and compared it to methylation in PBMCs from 8 children with asthma alone, obesity alone and healthy controls. Differentially methylated loci implicated certain biologically relevant molecules and pathways. PBMCs from obese asthmatic children had distinctive DNA methylation patterns, with decreased promoter methylation of CCL5, IL2RA and TBX21, genes encoding proteins linked with Th1 polarization, and increased promoter methylation of FCER2, a low-affinity receptor for IgE, and of TGFB1, inhibitor of Th cell activation. T-cell signaling and macrophage activation were the two primary pathways that were selectively hypomethylated in obese asthmatics. These findings suggest that dysregulated DNA methylation is associated with non-atopic inflammation observed in pediatric obesity-associated asthma.
5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) is a recently discovered epigenetic modification that is altered in cancers. Genome-wide assays for 5-hmC determination are needed as many of the techniques for 5-methylcytosine (5-mC) determination, including methyl-sensitive restriction digestion and bisulfite sequencing cannot distinguish between 5-mC and 5-hmC. Glycosylation of 5-hmC residues by beta-glucosyl transferase (β-GT) can make CCGG residues insensitive to digestion by MspI. Restriction digestion by HpaII, MspI or MspI after β-GT conversion, followed by adapter ligation, massive parallel sequencing and custom bioinformatic analysis allowed us determine distribution of 5-mC and 5-hmC at single base pair resolution at MspI restriction sites. The resulting HpaII tiny fragment Enrichment by Ligation-mediated PCR with β-GT (HELP-GT) assay identified 5-hmC loci that were validated at global level by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and the locus-specific level by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction of 5-hmC pull-down DNA. Hydroxymethylation at both promoter and intragenic locations correlated positively with gene expression. Analysis of pancreatic cancer samples revealed striking redistribution of 5-hmC sites in cancer cells and demonstrated enrichment of this modification at many oncogenic promoters such as GATA6. The HELP-GT assay allowed global determination of 5-hmC and 5-mC from low amounts of DNA and with the use of modest sequencing resources. Redistribution of 5-hmC seen in cancer highlights the importance of determination of this modification in conjugation with conventional methylome analysis.
Disruption of circadian rhythm is believed to play a critical role in cancer development. Cryptochrome 1 (CRY1) is a core component of the mammalian circadian clock and we have previously shown its deregulated expression in a subgroup of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Using real-time RT-PCR in a cohort of 76 CLL patients and 35 normal blood donors we now demonstrate that differential CRY1 mRNA expression in high-risk (HR) CD38+/immunoglobulin variable heavy chain gene (IgVH) unmutated patients as compared to low-risk (LR) CD38−/IgVH mutated patients can be attributed to down-modulation of CRY1 in LR CLL cases. Analysis of the DNA methylation profile of the CRY1 promoter in a subgroup of 57 patients revealed that CRY1 expression in LR CLL cells is silenced by aberrant promoter CpG island hypermethylation. The methylation pattern of the CRY1 promoter proved to have high prognostic impact in CLL where aberrant promoter methylation predicted a favourable outcome. CRY1 mRNA transcript levels did not change over time in the majority of patients where sequential samples were available for analysis. We also compared the CRY1 expression in CLL with other lymphoid malignancies and observed epigenetic silencing of CRY1 in a patient with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL).
The HELP assay is a technique that allows genome-wide analysis of cytosine methylation. Here we describe the assay, its relative strengths and weaknesses, and the transition of the assay from a microarray to massively-parallel sequencing-based foundation.
Cytosine methylation; CpG island; epigenetic
Epigenetic mechanisms are implicated in gene regulation and the development of different diseases. The epigenome differs between cell types and has until now only been characterized for a few human tissues. Environmental factors potentially alter the epigenome. Here we describe the genome-wide pattern of DNA methylation in human adipose tissue from 23 healthy men, with a previous low level of physical activity, before and after a six months exercise intervention. We also investigate the differences in adipose tissue DNA methylation between 31 individuals with or without a family history of type 2 diabetes. DNA methylation was analyzed using Infinium HumanMethylation450 BeadChip, an array containing 485,577 probes covering 99% RefSeq genes. Global DNA methylation changed and 17,975 individual CpG sites in 7,663 unique genes showed altered levels of DNA methylation after the exercise intervention (q<0.05). Differential mRNA expression was present in 1/3 of gene regions with altered DNA methylation, including RALBP1, HDAC4 and NCOR2 (q<0.05). Using a luciferase assay, we could show that increased DNA methylation in vitro of the RALBP1 promoter suppressed the transcriptional activity (p = 0.03). Moreover, 18 obesity and 21 type 2 diabetes candidate genes had CpG sites with differences in adipose tissue DNA methylation in response to exercise (q<0.05), including TCF7L2 (6 CpG sites) and KCNQ1 (10 CpG sites). A simultaneous change in mRNA expression was seen for 6 of those genes. To understand if genes that exhibit differential DNA methylation and mRNA expression in human adipose tissue in vivo affect adipocyte metabolism, we silenced Hdac4 and Ncor2 respectively in 3T3-L1 adipocytes, which resulted in increased lipogenesis both in the basal and insulin stimulated state. In conclusion, exercise induces genome-wide changes in DNA methylation in human adipose tissue, potentially affecting adipocyte metabolism.
Given the important role of epigenetics in gene regulation and disease development, we here present the genome-wide DNA methylation pattern of 476,753 CpG sites in adipose tissue obtained from healthy men. Since environmental factors potentially change metabolism through epigenetic modifications, we examined if a six months exercise intervention alters the DNA methylation pattern as well as gene expression in human adipose tissue. Our results show that global DNA methylation changes and 17,975 individual CpG sites alter the levels of DNA methylation in response to exercise. We also found differential DNA methylation of 39 candidate genes for obesity and type 2 diabetes in human adipose tissue after exercise. Additionally, we provide functional proof that genes, which exhibit both differential DNA methylation and gene expression in human adipose tissue in response to exercise, influence adipocyte metabolism. Together, this study provides the first detailed map of the genome-wide DNA methylation pattern in human adipose tissue and links exercise to altered adipose tissue DNA methylation, potentially affecting adipocyte metabolism.
DNA methylation changes dynamically during development and is essential for embryogenesis in mammals. However, how DNA methylation affects developmental gene expression and cell differentiation remains elusive. During embryogenesis, many key transcription factors are used repeatedly, triggering different outcomes depending on the cell type and developmental stage. Here, we report that DNA methylation modulates transcription-factor output in the context of cell differentiation. Using a drug-inducible Gata4 system and a mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell model of mesoderm differentiation, we examined the cellular response to Gata4 in ES and mesoderm cells. The activation of Gata4 in ES cells is known to drive their differentiation to endoderm. We show that the differentiation of wild-type ES cells into mesoderm blocks their Gata4-induced endoderm differentiation, while mesoderm cells derived from ES cells that are deficient in the DNA methyltransferases Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b can retain their response to Gata4, allowing lineage conversion from mesoderm cells to endoderm. Transcriptome analysis of the cells' response to Gata4 over time revealed groups of endoderm and mesoderm developmental genes whose expression was induced by Gata4 only when DNA methylation was lost, suggesting that DNA methylation restricts the ability of these genes to respond to Gata4, rather than controlling their transcription per se. Gata4-binding-site profiles and DNA methylation analyses suggested that DNA methylation modulates the Gata4 response through diverse mechanisms. Our data indicate that epigenetic regulation by DNA methylation functions as a heritable safeguard to prevent transcription factors from activating inappropriate downstream genes, thereby contributing to the restriction of the differentiation potential of somatic cells.
Animal bodies are constructed from many different specialized cell types that are generated during embryogenesis from a single fertilized egg, and acquire their specific characteristics through a series of differentiation steps. After being committed to a specific cell type, it is generally difficult for differentiated cells to convert to other cell types, at least partly because the cells maintain some memory or mark of their developmental history. Such cellular memory is mediated by “epigenetic” mechanisms, which function to stabilize the cell state. DNA methylation, a chemical modification of genomic cytosine residues, is one such mechanism. Genomic DNA methylation patterns in early embryonic cells are established in a cell-type-dependent manner, and these specific patterns are propagated through cell divisions in a clonal manner. However, our understanding of how DNA methylation controls cell differentiation and developmental gene regulation is limited. In this study, using an in vitro model of differentiation, we obtained evidence that DNA methylation modulates the cell's response to DNA-binding transcription factors in a cell-type-dependent manner. These findings extend our understanding of how cellular traits are stabilized within specific lineages during development, and may contribute to advances in cellular engineering.
Random monoallelic expression contributes to phenotypic variation of cells and organisms. However, the epigenetic mechanisms by which individual alleles are randomly selected for expression are not known. Taking cues from chromatin signatures at imprinted gene loci such as the insulin-like growth factor 2 gene 2 (IGF2), we evaluated the contribution of CTCF, a zinc finger protein required for parent-of-origin-specific expression of the IGF2 gene, as well as a role for allele-specific association with DNA methylation, histone modification and RNA polymerase II.
Using array-based chromatin immunoprecipitation, we identified 293 genomic loci that are associated with both CTCF and histone H3 trimethylated at lysine 9 (H3K9me3). A comparison of their genomic positions with those of previously published monoallelically expressed genes revealed no significant overlap between allele-specifically expressed genes and colocalized CTCF/H3K9me3. To analyze the contributions of CTCF and H3K9me3 to gene regulation in more detail, we focused on the monoallelically expressed IGF2BP1 gene. In vitro binding assays using the CTCF target motif at the IGF2BP1 gene, as well as allele-specific analysis of cytosine methylation and CTCF binding, revealed that CTCF does not regulate mono- or biallelic IGF2BP1 expression. Surprisingly, we found that RNA polymerase II is detected on both the maternal and paternal alleles in B lymphoblasts that express IGF2BP1 primarily from one allele. Thus, allele-specific control of RNA polymerase II elongation regulates the allelic bias of IGF2BP1 gene expression.
Colocalization of CTCF and H3K9me3 does not represent a reliable chromatin signature indicative of monoallelic expression. Moreover, association of individual alleles with both active (H3K4me3) and silent (H3K27me3) chromatin modifications (allelic bivalent chromatin) or with RNA polymerase II also fails to identify monoallelically expressed gene loci. The selection of individual alleles for expression occurs in part during transcription elongation.
The normal aging process is a complex phenomenon associated with physiological alterations in the function of cells and organs over time. Although an attractive candidate for mediating transcriptional dysregulation, the contribution of epigenetic dysregulation to these progressive changes in cellular physiology remains unclear. In this study, we employed the genome-wide HELP assay to define patterns of cytosine methylation throughout the rat genome, and the LUMA assay to measure global levels of DNA methylation in the same samples. We studied both liver and visceral adipose tissue, and demonstrated significant differences in DNA methylation with age at >5% of sites analyzed. Furthermore, we showed that epigenetic dysregulation with age is a highly tissue-dependent phenomenon. The most distinctive loci were located at intergenic sequences and conserved non-coding elements, and not at promoters nor at CG-dinucleotide dense loci. Despite this, we found that there was a subset of genes at which cytosine methylation and gene expression changes were concordant. Finally, we demonstrated that changes in methylation occur consistently near genes that are involved in metabolism and metabolic regulation, implicating their potential role in the pathogenesis of age-related diseases. We conclude that different patterns of epigenetic dysregulation occur in each tissue over time and may cause some of the physiological changes associated with normal aging.
aging; epigenetics; DNA methylation; tissue-specific; liver; visceral adiposity
In this review, we describe how normal ageing may involve the acquisition of epigenetic errors over time, akin to the accumulation of genetic mutations with ageing. We describe how such experiments are currently performed, their limitations technically and analytically and their application to ageing research.
Previous studies have shown that tumor progression in the transgenic adenocarcinoma of mouse prostate (TRAMP) model is characterized by global DNA hypomethylation initiated during early-stage disease and locus-specific DNA hypermethylation occurring predominantly in late-stage disease. Here, we utilized Dnmt1 hypomorphic alleles to examine the role of Dnmt1 in normal prostate development and in prostate cancer in TRAMP. Prostate tissue morphology and differentiation status was normal in Dnmt1 hypomorphic mice, despite global DNA hypomethylation. TRAMP; Dnmt1 hypomorphic mice also displayed global DNA hypomethylation, but were characterized by altered tumor phenotype. Specifically, TRAMP; Dnmt1 hypomorphic mice exhibited slightly increased tumor incidence and significantly increased pathological progression at early ages and, conversely, displayed slightly decreased tumor incidence and significantly decreased pathological progression at advanced ages. Remarkably, hypomorphic Dnmt1 expression abrogated local and distant site macrometastases. Thus, Dnmt1 has tumor suppressor activity in early-stage prostate cancer, and oncogenic activity in late stage prostate cancer and metastasis. Consistent with the biological phenotype, epigenomic studies revealed that TRAMP; Dnmt1 hypomorphic mice show dramatically reduced CpG island and promoter DNA hypermethylation in late-stage primary tumors compared to control mice. Taken together, the data reveal a crucial role for Dnmt1 in prostate cancer and suggest that Dnmt1-targeted interventions may have utility specifically for advanced and/or metastatic prostate cancer.
We hypothesized that DNA methylation distributes into specific patterns in cancer cells, which reflect critical biological differences. We therefore examined the methylation profiles of 344 patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Clustering of these patients by methylation data segregated patients into 16 groups. Five of these groups defined new AML subtypes that shared no other known feature. In addition, DNA methylation profiles segregated patients with CEBPA aberrations from other subtypes of leukemia, defined four epigenetically distinct forms of AML with NPM1 mutations, and showed that established AML1-ETO, CBFb-MYH11, and PML-RARA leukemia entities are associated with specific methylation profiles. We report a 15 gene methylation classifier predictive of overall survival in an independent patient cohort (p < 0.001, adjusted for known covariates).
Green tea polyphenols (GTPs) have been reported to inhibit DNA methylation in cultured cells. Here we tested whether oral consumption of GTPs affects normal or cancer specific DNA methylation in vivo, using mice. Wildtype (WT) and Transgenic Adenocarcinoma of Mouse Prostate (TRAMP) mice were administered 0.3% GTPs in drinking water beginning at 4 weeks of age. To monitor DNA methylation, we measured 5-methyl-deoxycytidine (5mdC) levels, methylation of the B1 repetitive element, and methylation of the Mage-a8 gene. Each of these parameters were unchanged in prostate, gut, and liver from WT mice at both 12 and 24 weeks of age, with the single exception of a decrease of 5mdC in the liver at 12 weeks. In GTP-treated TRAMP mice, 5mdC levels and the methylation status of four loci hypermethylated during tumor progression were unaltered in TRAMP prostates at 12 or 24 weeks. Quite surprisingly, GTP treatment did not inhibit tumor progression in TRAMP mice, although known pharmacodynamic markers of GTPs were altered in both WT and TRAMP prostates. We also administered 0.1%, 0.3%, or 0.6% GTPs to TRAMP mice for 12 weeks and measured 5mdC levels and methylation of B1 and Mage-a8 in prostate, gut, and liver tissues. No dose-dependent alterations in DNA methylation status were observed. Genome-wide DNA methylation profiling using the HELP assay also revealed no significant hypomethylating effect of GTP. These data indicate that oral administration of GTPs does not affect normal or cancer-specific DNA methylation in the murine prostate.
green tea polyphenols; TRAMP; prostate cancer; DNA methylation; HELP assay
Motivation: DNA cytosine methylation is an important epigenetic regulator, critical for mammalian development and the control of gene expression. Numerous techniques using either restriction enzyme or affinity-based approaches have been developed to interrogate cytosine methylation status genome-wide, however these assays must be validated by a more quantitative approach, such as MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry of bisulphite-converted DNA (commercialized as Sequenom's EpiTYPER assay using the MassArray system). Here, we present an R package (‘MassArray’) that assists in assay design and uses the standard Sequenom output file as the input to a pipeline of analyses not available as part of the commercial software. The tools in this package include bisulphite conversion efficiency calculation, sequence polymorphism flagging and visualization tools that combine multiple experimental replicates and create tracks for genome browser viewing.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
Genome-wide, tag-based cytosine methylation analysis is optimized.
Using the type III restriction-modification enzyme EcoP15I, we isolated sequences flanking sites digested by the methylation-sensitive HpaII enzyme or its methylation-insensitive MspI isoschizomer for massively parallel sequencing. A novel data transformation allows us to normalise HpaII by MspI counts, resulting in more accurate quantification of methylation at >1.8 million loci in the human genome. This HELP-tagging assay is not sensitive to sequence polymorphism or base composition and allows exploration of both CG-rich and depleted genomic contexts.
Perturbations of the intrauterine environment can affect fetal development during critical periods of plasticity, and can increase susceptibility to a number of age-related diseases (e.g., type 2 diabetes mellitus; T2DM), manifesting as late as decades later. We hypothesized that this biological memory is mediated by permanent alterations of the epigenome in stem cell populations, and focused our studies specifically on DNA methylation in CD34+ hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells from cord blood from neonates with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and control subjects.
Methods and Findings
Our epigenomic assays utilized a two-stage design involving genome-wide discovery followed by quantitative, single-locus validation. We found that changes in cytosine methylation occur in response to IUGR of moderate degree and involving a restricted number of loci. We also identify specific loci that are targeted for dysregulation of DNA methylation, in particular the hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (HNF4A) gene, a well-known diabetes candidate gene not previously associated with growth restriction in utero, and other loci encoding HNF4A-interacting proteins.
Our results give insights into the potential contribution of epigenomic dysregulation in mediating the long-term consequences of IUGR, and demonstrate the value of this approach to studies of the fetal origin of adult disease.
Massively parallel sequencing has been harnessed to map DNA methylation patterns in the mouse genome.
The power of massively parallel sequencing has been harnessed to map cytosine methylation patterns in the mouse genome, allowing insights into the relationship of methylation with DNA sequence, histone modifications, transcriptional activity and dynamic changes in methylation status during differentiation.
Epigenetic factors play a role in the expression of virulence traits in Apicomplexa. Apicomplexan genomes encode putative DNA cytosine methylation enzymes. To assess the presence of cytosine methylation of Toxoplasma gondii and Cryptosporidium parvum DNA, we used mass spectrometry analysis and confirmed that these organisms lack detectable methylcytosine in their DNA.
The molecular heterogeneity of acute leukemias and other tumors constitutes a major obstacle towards understanding disease pathogenesis and developing new targeted-therapies. Aberrant gene regulation is a hallmark of cancer and plays a central role in determining tumor phenotype. We predicted that integration of different genome-wide epigenetic regulatory marks along with gene expression levels would provide greater power in capturing biological differences between leukemia subtypes. Gene expression, cytosine methylation and histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9) acetylation were measured using high-density oligonucleotide microarrays in primary human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) specimens. We found that DNA methylation and H3K9 acetylation distinguished these leukemias of distinct cell lineage, as expected, but that an integrative analysis combining the information from each platform revealed hundreds of additional differentially expressed genes that were missed by gene expression arrays alone. This integrated analysis also enhanced the detection and statistical significance of biological pathways dysregulated in AML and ALL. Integrative epigenomic studies are thus feasible using clinical samples and provide superior detection of aberrant transcriptional programming than single-platform microarray studies.
Cytosines at cytosine-guanine (CG) dinucleotides are the near-exclusive target of DNA methyltransferases in mammalian genomes. Spontaneous deamination of methylcytosine to thymine makes methylated cytosines unusually susceptible to mutation and consequent depletion. The loci where CG dinucleotides remain relatively enriched, presumably due to their unmethylated status during the germ cell cycle, have been referred to as CpG islands. Currently, CpG islands are solely defined by base compositional criteria, allowing annotation of any sequenced genome. Using a novel bioinformatic approach, we show that CG clusters can be identified as an inherent property of genomic sequence without imposing a base compositional a priori assumption. We also show that the CG clusters co-localize in the human genome with hypomethylated loci and annotated transcription start sites to a greater extent than annotations produced by prior CpG island definitions. Moreover, this new approach allows CG clusters to be identified in a species-specific manner, revealing a degree of orthologous conservation that is not revealed by current base compositional approaches. Finally, our approach is able to identify methylating genomes (such as Takifugu rubripes) that lack CG clustering entirely, in which it is inappropriate to annotate CpG islands or CG clusters.
Mechanisms of gene regulation are poorly understood in Apicomplexa, a phylum that encompasses deadly human pathogens like Plasmodium and Toxoplasma. Initial studies suggest that epigenetic phenomena, including histone modifications and chromatin remodeling, have a profound effect upon gene expression and expression of virulence traits. Using the model organism Toxoplasma gondii, we characterized the epigenetic organization and transcription patterns of a contiguous 1% of the T. gondii genome using custom oligonucleotide microarrays. We show that methylation and acetylation of histones H3 and H4 are landmarks of active promoters in T. gondii that allow us to deduce the position and directionality of gene promoters with >95% accuracy. These histone methylation and acetylation “activation” marks are strongly associated with gene expression. We also demonstrate that the pattern of histone H3 arginine methylation distinguishes certain promoters, illustrating the complexity of the histone modification machinery in Toxoplasma. By integrating epigenetic data, gene prediction analysis, and gene expression data from the tachyzoite stage, we illustrate feasibility of creating an epigenomic map of T. gondii tachyzoite gene expression. Further, we illustrate the utility of the epigenomic map to empirically and biologically annotate the genome and show that this approach enables identification of previously unknown genes. Thus, our epigenomics approach provides novel insights into regulation of gene expression in the Apicomplexa. In addition, with its compact genome, genetic tractability, and discrete life cycle stages, T. gondii provides an important new model to study the evolutionarily conserved components of the histone code.
Apicomplexan parasites, including Toxoplasma gondii, are responsible for a variety of deadly infections, but little is understood about how these important pathogens regulate gene expression. Initial studies suggest that alterations in chromatin structure regulate expression of virulence traits. To understand the relationship of chromatin remodeling and transcriptional regulation in T. gondii, we characterized the histone modifications and gene expression of a contiguous 1% of the T. gondii genome using custom DNA oligonucleotide microarrays. We found that active promoters have a characteristic pattern of histone modifications that correlates strongly with active gene expression in tachyzoites. These data, integrated with prior gene predictions, enable more accurate annotation of the genome and discovery of new genes. Further, these studies illustrate the power of an integrated epigenomic approach to illuminate the role of the “histone code” in regulation of gene expression in the Apicomplexa.
We have inserted two expression cassettes at tagged reference chromosomal sites by using recombinase-mediated cassette exchange in mammalian cells. The three sites of integration displayed either stable or silencing position effects that were dominant over the different enhancers present in the cassettes. These position effects were strongly dependent on the orientation of the construct within the locus, with one orientation being permissive for expression and the other being nonpermissive. Orientation-specific silencing, which was observed at two of the three site tested, was associated with hypermethylation but not with changes in chromatin structure, as judged by DNase I hypersensitivity assays. Using CRE recombinase, we were able to switch in vivo the orientation of the transgenes from the permissive to the nonpermissive orientation and vice versa. Switching from the permissive to the nonpermissive orientation led to silencing, but switching from the nonpermissive to the permissive orientation did not lead to reactivation of the transgene. Instead, transgene expression occurred dynamically by transcriptional oscillations, with 10 to 20% of the cells expressing at any given time. This result suggested that the cassette had been imprinted (epigenetically tagged) while it was in the nonpermissive orientation. Methylation analysis revealed that the methylation state of the inverted cassettes resembled that of silenced cassettes except that the enhancer had selectively lost some of its methylation. Sorting of the expressing and nonexpressing cell populations provided evidence that the transcriptional oscillations of the epigenetically tagged cassette are associated with changes in the methylation status of regulatory elements in the transgene. This suggests that transgene methylation is more dynamic than was previously assumed.
Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon resulting in parent-of-origin specific monoallelic gene expression. It is postulated to have evolved in placental mammals to modulate intrauterine resource allocation to the offspring. In this study, we determined the imprint status of metatherian orthologues of eutherian imprinted genes.
L3MBTL and HTR2A were shown to be imprinted in Monodelphis domestica (the gray short-tailed opossum). MEST expressed a monoallelic and a biallelic transcript, as in eutherians. In contrast, IMPACT, COPG2, and PLAGL1 were not imprinted in the opossum. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) involved in regulating imprinting in eutherians were not found at any of the new imprinted loci in the opossum. Interestingly, a novel DMR was identified in intron 11 of the imprinted IGF2R gene, but this was not conserved in eutherians. The promoter regions of the imprinted genes in the opossum were enriched for the activating histone modification H3 Lysine 4 dimethylation.
The phenomenon of genomic imprinting is conserved in Therians, but the marked difference in the number and location of imprinted genes and DMRs between metatherians and eutherians indicates that imprinting is not fully conserved between the two Therian infra-classes. The identification of a novel DMR at a non-conserved location as well as the first demonstration of histone modifications at imprinted loci in the opossum suggest that genomic imprinting may have evolved in a common ancestor of these two Therian infra-classes with subsequent divergence of regulatory mechanisms in the two lineages.
Genomic imprinting; Marsupials; Eutherians