Epigenetics & Chromatin


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    Epigenetics and chromatin
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Publications in this journal

  • Epigenetics & Chromatin 01/2015;
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    ABSTRACT: DNA methylation is thought to play an important role in the regulation of mammalian gene expression, partly based on the observation that a lack of CpG island methylation in gene promoters is associated with high transcriptional activity. However, the CpG island methylation level only accounts for a fraction of the variance in gene expression, and methylation in other domains is hypothesized to play a role. We hypothesized that regions of very high stability in methylation would exist and provide biological insight into the role of methylation both within and outside CpG islands. We set out to identify highly stable regions in the human methylome, based on the subset of CpGs assayed with an Illumina Infinium 450 K array. Using 1,737 samples from 30 publically available studies, we identified 15,224 CpGs that are 'ultrastable' in their state across tissues and developmental stages (974 always methylated; 14,250 always unmethylated). Further analysis of ultrastable CpGs led us to identify a novel subset of CpG islands, 'ravines', which exhibit a markedly consistent pattern of low methylation with highly methylated flanking shores and shelves. We distinguish ravines from other CpG islands characterized by a broader flanking region of low methylation. Interestingly, ravines are associated with higher gene expression compared to typical unmethylated CpG islands, and are more often found near housekeeping genes. The identification of ultrastable sites in the human methylome led us to identify a subclass of CpG islands characterized by a very stable pattern of methylation encompassing the island and flanking regions, established early in development and maintained through differentiation. This pattern is associated with particularly high levels of gene expression, providing new evidence that methylation beyond the CpG island could play a role in gene expression.
    Epigenetics & Chromatin 01/2014; 7(1):28.
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    ABSTRACT: Epigenetic modifications such as histone and DNA methylation are essential for silencing pluripotency genes during embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation. G9a is the major histone H3 Lys9 (H3K9) methyltransferase in euchromatin and is required for the de novo DNA methylation of the key regulator of pluripotency Oct3/4 during ESC differentiation. Surprisingly, the catalytic activity of G9a is not required for its role in de novo DNA methylation and the precise molecular mechanisms of G9a in this process are poorly understood. It has been suggested that the G9a ankyrin repeat domain, which can interact with both H3K9me2 and the DNA methyltransferase DNMT3A, could facilitate de novo DNA methylation by bridging the interaction between DNMT3A and H3K9me2-marked chromatin. Here, we demonstrate that the G9a ankyrin domain H3K9me2-binding function is not required for the de novo DNA methylation of Oct3/4 during ESC differentiation. Moreover, we show that the interaction between the G9a ankyrin domain and DNMT3A is not sufficient to ensure efficient de novo DNA methylation. More importantly, we characterize a specific residue of the G9a ankyrin domain (Asp905) that is critical for both maintaining cellular H3K9me2 levels in undifferentiated ESCs and for the establishment of de novo DNA methylation during differentiation. These results represent an exciting breakthrough, which reveals 1) an unexpected critical biological function of the G9a ankyrin domain in global histone H3K9 methylation and 2) valuable insights into the molecular mechanisms and interaction surfaces through which G9a regulates de novo DNA methylation of Oct3/4 during ESC differentiation.
    Epigenetics & Chromatin 01/2014; 7:27.
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    ABSTRACT: Genetic and epigenetic inheritance through mitosis is critical for dividing cells to maintain their state. This process occurs in the context of large-scale re-organization of chromosome conformation during prophase leading to the formation of mitotic chromosomes, and during the reformation of the interphase nucleus during telophase and early G1. This review highlights how recent studies over the last 5 years employing chromosome conformation capture combined with classical models of chromosome organization based on decades of microscopic observations, are providing new insights into the three-dimensional organization of chromatin inside the interphase nucleus and within mitotic chromosomes. One striking observation is that interphase genome organization displays cell type-specific features that are related to cell type-specific gene expression, whereas mitotic chromosome folding appears universal and tissue invariant. This raises the question of whether or not there is a need for an epigenetic memory for genome folding. Herein, the two different folding states of mammalian genomes are reviewed and then models are discussed wherein instructions for cell type-specific genome folding are locally encoded in the linear genome and transmitted through mitosis, e.g., as open chromatin sites with or without continuous binding of transcription factors. In the next cell cycle these instructions are used to re-assemble protein complexes on regulatory elements which then drive three-dimensional folding of the genome from the bottom up through local action and self-assembly into higher order levels of cell type-specific organization. In this model, no explicit epigenetic memory for cell type-specific chromosome folding is required.
    Epigenetics & Chromatin 01/2014; 7(1):25.
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    ABSTRACT: The histone variant H3.3 plays a critical role in maintaining the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) by regulating gene expression programs important for lineage specification. H3.3 is deposited by various chaperones at regulatory sites, gene bodies, and certain heterochromatic sites such as telomeres and centromeres. Using Tet-inhibited expression of epitope-tagged H3.3 combined with ChIP-Seq we undertook genome-wide measurements of H3.3 dissociation rates across the ESC genome and examined the relationship between H3.3-nucleosome turnover and ESC-specific transcription factors, chromatin modifiers, and epigenetic marks. Our comprehensive analysis of H3.3 dissociation rates revealed distinct H3.3 dissociation dynamics at various functional chromatin domains. At transcription start sites, H3.3 dissociates rapidly with the highest rate at nucleosome-depleted regions (NDRs) just upstream of Pol II binding, followed by low H3.3 dissociation rates across gene bodies. H3.3 turnover at transcription start sites, gene bodies, and transcription end sites was positively correlated with transcriptional activity. H3.3 is found decorated with various histone modifications that regulate transcription and maintain chromatin integrity. We find greatly varying H3.3 dissociation rates across various histone modification domains: high dissociation rates at active histone marks and low dissociation rates at heterochromatic marks. Well- defined zones of high H3.3-nucleosome turnover were detected at binding sites of ESC-specific pluripotency factors and chromatin remodelers, suggesting an important role for H3.3 in facilitating protein binding. Among transcription factor binding sites we detected higher H3.3 turnover at distal cis-acting sites compared to proximal genic transcription factor binding sites. Our results imply that fast H3.3 dissociation is a hallmark of interactions between DNA and transcriptional regulators. Our study demonstrates that H3.3 turnover and nucleosome stability vary greatly across the chromatin landscape of embryonic stem cells. The presence of high H3.3 turnover at RNA Pol II binding sites at extragenic regions as well as at transcription start and end sites of genes, suggests a specific role for H3.3 in transcriptional initiation and termination. On the other hand, the presence of well-defined zones of high H3.3 dissociation at transcription factor and chromatin remodeler binding sites point to a broader role in facilitating accessibility.
    Epigenetics & Chromatin 01/2014; 7(1):38.
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    ABSTRACT: The repair of spontaneous and induced DNA lesions is a multistep process. Depending on the type of injury, damaged DNA is recognized by many proteins specifically involved in distinct DNA repair pathways. We analyzed the DNA-damage response after ultraviolet A (UVA) and γ irradiation of mouse embryonic fibroblasts and focused on upstream binding factor 1 (UBF1), a key protein in the regulation of ribosomal gene transcription. We found that UBF1, but not nucleolar proteins RPA194, TCOF, or fibrillarin, was recruited to UVA-irradiated chromatin concurrently with an increase in heterochromatin protein 1β (HP1β) level. Moreover, Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) confirmed interaction between UBF1 and HP1β that was dependent on a functional chromo shadow domain of HP1β. Thus, overexpression of HP1β with a deleted chromo shadow domain had a dominant-negative effect on UBF1 recruitment to UVA-damaged chromatin. Transcription factor UBF1 also interacted directly with DNA inside the nucleolus but no interaction of UBF1 and DNA was confirmed outside the nucleolus, where UBF1 recruitment to DNA lesions appeared simultaneously with cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers; this occurrence was cell-cycle-independent. We propose that the simultaneous presence and interaction of UBF1 and HP1β at DNA lesions is activated by the presence of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers and mediated by the chromo shadow domain of HP1β. This might have functional significance for nucleotide excision repair.
    Epigenetics & Chromatin 01/2014; 7(1):39.
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    ABSTRACT: Transcriptional activation throughout the eukaryotic lineage has been tightly linked with disruption of nucleosome organization at promoters, enhancers, silencers, insulators and locus control regions due to transcription factor binding. Regulatory DNA thus coincides with open or accessible genomic sites of remodeled chromatin. Current chromatin accessibility assays are used to separate the genome by enzymatic or chemical means and isolate either the accessible or protected locations. The isolated DNA is then quantified using a next-generation sequencing platform. Wide application of these assays has recently focused on the identification of the instrumental epigenetic changes responsible for differential gene expression, cell proliferation, functional diversification and disease development. Here we discuss the limitations and advantages of current genome-wide chromatin accessibility assays with especial attention on experimental precautions and sequence data analysis. We conclude with our perspective on future improvements necessary for moving the field of chromatin profiling forward.
    Epigenetics & Chromatin 01/2014; 7(1):33.