[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The survival of a species depends on its capacity to adjust to changing environmental conditions, and new stressors. Such new, anthropogenic stressors include the neonicotinoid class of crop-protecting agents, which have been implicated in the population declines of pollinating insects, including honeybees (Apis mellifera). The low-dose effects of these compounds on larval development and physiological responses have remained largely unknown. Over a period of 15 days, we provided syrup tainted with low levels (2 µg/L(-1)) of the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid to beehives located in the field. We measured transcript levels by RNA sequencing and established lipid profiles using liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry from worker-bee larvae of imidacloprid-exposed (IE) and unexposed, control (C) hives. Within a catalogue of 300 differentially expressed transcripts in larvae from IE hives, we detect significant enrichment of genes functioning in lipid-carbohydrate-mitochondrial metabolic networks. Myc-involved transcriptional response to exposure of this neonicotinoid is indicated by overrepresentation of E-box elements in the promoter regions of genes with altered expression. RNA levels for a cluster of genes encoding detoxifying P450 enzymes are elevated, with coordinated downregulation of genes in glycolytic and sugar-metabolising pathways. Expression of the environmentally responsive Hsp90 gene is also reduced, suggesting diminished buffering and stability of the developmental program. The multifaceted, physiological response described here may be of importance to our general understanding of pollinator health. Muscles, for instance, work at high glycolytic rates and flight performance could be impacted should low levels of this evolutionarily novel stressor likewise induce downregulation of energy metabolising genes in adult pollinators.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(7):e68191. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: DNA methyltransferases establish methylation patterns in cells and transmit these patterns over cell generations, thereby influencing each cell's epigenetic states. Three primary DNA methyltransferases have been identified in mammals: DNMT1, DNMT3A and DNMT3B. Extensive in vitro studies have investigated key properties of these enzymes, namely their substrate specificity and processivity. Here we study these properties in vivo, by applying novel statistical analysis methods to double-stranded DNA methylation patterns collected using hairpin-bisulfite PCR. Our analysis fits a novel Hidden Markov Model (HMM) to the observed data, allowing for potential bisulfite conversion errors, and yields statistical estimates of parameters that quantify enzyme processivity and substrate specificity. We apply this model to methylation patterns established in vivo at three loci in humans: two densely methylated inactive X (Xi)-linked loci (FMR1 and G6PD), and an autosomal locus (LEP), where methylation densities are tissue-specific but moderate. We find strong evidence for a high level of processivity of DNMT1 at FMR1 and G6PD, with the mean association tract length being a few hundred base pairs. Regardless of tissue types, methylation patterns at LEP are dominated by DNMT1 maintenance events, similar to the two Xi-linked loci, but are insufficiently informative regarding processivity to draw any conclusions about processivity at that locus. At all three loci we find that DNMT1 shows a strong preference for adding methyl groups to hemi-methylated CpG sites over unmethylated sites. The data at all three loci also suggest low (possibly 0) association of the de novo methyltransferases, the DNMT3s, and are consequently uninformative about processivity or preference of these enzymes. We also extend our HMM to reanalyze published data on mouse DNMT1 activities in vitro. The results suggest shorter association tracts (and hence weaker processivity), and much longer non-association tracts than human DNMT1 in vivo.
PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(3):e32225. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Variability among individuals in the severity of fragile X syndrome (FXS) is influenced by epigenetic methylation mosaicism, which may also be common in other complex disorders. The epigenetic signal of dense promoter DNA methylation is usually associated with gene silencing, as was initially reported for FMR1 alleles in individuals with FXS. A paradox arose when significant levels of FMR1 mRNA were reported for some males with FXS who had been reported to have predominately methylated alleles. We have used hairpin-bisufite PCR, validated with molecular batch-stamps and barcodes, to collect and assess double-stranded DNA methylation patterns from these previously studied males. These patterns enable us to distinguish among three possible forms of methylation mosaicism, any one of which could explain FMR1 expression in these males. Our data indicate that cryptic inter-cell mosaicism in DNA methylation can account for the presence of FMR1 mRNA in some individuals with FXS.
PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(8):e23648. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We develop Bayesian inference methods for a recently-emerging type of epigenetic data to study the transmission fidelity of DNA methylation patterns over cell divisions. The data consist of parent-daughter double-stranded DNA methylation patterns with each pattern coming from a single cell and represented as an unordered pair of binary strings. The data are technically difficult and time-consuming to collect, putting a premium on an efficient inference method. Our aim is to estimate rates for the maintenance and de novo methylation events that gave rise to the observed patterns, while accounting for measurement error. We model data at multiple sites jointly, thus using whole-strand information, and considerably reduce confounding between parameters. We also adopt a hierarchical structure that allows for variation in rates across sites without an explosion in the effective number of parameters. Our context-specific priors capture the expected stationarity, or near-stationarity, of the stochastic process that generated the data analyzed here. This expected stationarity is shown to greatly increase the precision of the estimation. Applying our model to a data set collected at the human FMR1 locus, we find that measurement errors, generally ignored in similar studies, occur at a nontrivial rate (inappropriate bisulfite conversion error: 1.6$%$ with 80$%$ CI: 0.9--2.3$%$). Accounting for these errors has a substantial impact on estimates of key biological parameters. The estimated average failure of maintenance rate and daughter de novo rate decline from 0.04 to 0.024 and from 0.14 to 0.07, respectively, when errors are accounted for. Our results also provide evidence that de novo events may occur on both parent and daughter strands: the median parent and daughter de novo rates are 0.08 (80$%$ CI: 0.04--0.13) and 0.07 (80$%$ CI: 0.04--0.11), respectively. Comment: Published in at http://dx.doi.org/10.1214/09-AOAS297 the Annals of Applied Statistics (http://www.imstat.org/aoas/) by the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (http://www.imstat.org)
The Annals of Applied Statistics 11/2010; · 2.24 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Members of the CHD protein family play key roles in gene regulation through ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling. This is facilitated by chromodomains that bind histone tails, and by the SWI2/SNF2-like ATPase/helicase domain that remodels chromatin by moving histones. Chd6 is ubiquitously expressed in both mouse and human, with the highest levels of expression in the brain. The Chd6 gene contains 37 exons, of which exons 12-19 encode the highly conserved ATPase domain. To determine the biological role of Chd6, we generated mouse lines with a deletion of exon 12. Chd6 without exon 12 is expressed at normal levels in mice, and Chd6 Exon 12 -/- mice are viable, fertile, and exhibit no obvious morphological or pathological phenotype. Chd6 Exon 12 -/- mice lack coordination as revealed by sensorimotor analysis. Further behavioral testing revealed that the coordination impairment was not due to muscle weakness or bradykinesia. Histological analysis of brain morphology revealed no differences between Chd6 Exon 12 -/- mice and wild-type (WT) controls. The location of CHD6 on human chromosome 20q12 is overlapped by the linkage map regions of several human ataxias, including autosomal recessive infantile cerebellar ataxia (SCAR6), a nonprogressive cerebrospinal ataxia. The genomic location, expression pattern, and ataxic phenotype of Chd6 Exon 12 -/- mice indicate that mutations within CHD6 may be responsible for one of these ataxias.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Genetic alterations in the alpha-synuclein (SNCA) gene have been implicated in Parkinson Disease (PD), including point mutations, gene multiplications, and sequence variations within the promoter. Such alterations may be involved in pathology through structural changes or overexpression of the protein leading to protein aggregation, as well as through impaired gene expression. It is, therefore, of importance to specify the parameters that regulate SNCA expression in its normal and mutated state. We studied the expression of SNCA alleles in a lymphoblastoid cell line and in the blood cells of a patient heterozygous for p.Ala53Thr, the first mutation to be implicated in PD pathogenesis. Here, we provide evidence that: (1) SNCA shows monoallelic expression in this patient, (2) epigenetic silencing of the mutated allele involves histone modifications but not DNA methylation, and (3) steady-state mRNA levels deriving from the normal SNCA allele in this patient exceed those of the two normal SNCA alleles combined, in matching, control individuals. An imbalanced SNCA expression in this patient is thus documented, with silencing of the p.Ala53Thr allele and upregulation of the wild-type-allele. This phenomenon is demonstrated for a first time in the SNCA gene, and may have important implications for PD pathogenesis.
Human Mutation 03/2010; 31(6):685-91. · 5.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We develop Bayesian inference methods for a recently-emerging type of epigenetic data to study the transmission fidelity of DNA methylation patterns over cell divisions. The data consist of parent-daughter double-stranded DNA methylation patterns with each pattern coming from a single cell and represented as an unordered pair of binary strings. The data are technically difficult and time-consuming to collect, putting a premium on an efficient inference method. Our aim is to estimate rates for the maintenance and de novo methylation events that gave rise to the observed patterns, while accounting for measurement error. We model data at multiple sites jointly, thus using whole-strand information, and considerably reduce confounding between parameters. We also adopt a hierarchical structure that allows for variation in rates across sites without an explosion in the effective number of parameters. Our context-specific priors capture the expected stationarity, or near-stationarity, of the stochastic process that generated the data analyzed here. This expected stationarity is shown to greatly increase the precision of the estimation. Applying our model to a data set collected at the human FMR1 locus, we find that measurement errors, generally ignored in similar studies, occur at a non-trivial rate (inappropriate bisulfite conversion error: 1.6% with 80% CI: 0.9-2.3%). Accounting for these errors has a substantial impact on estimates of key biological parameters. The estimated average failure of maintenance rate and daughter de novo rate decline from 0.04 to 0.024 and from 0.14 to 0.07, respectively, when errors are accounted for. Our results also provide evidence that de novo events may occur on both parent and daughter strands: the median parent and daughter de novo rates are 0.08 (80% CI: 0.04-0.13) and 0.07 (80% CI: 0.04-0.11), respectively.
The Annals of Applied Statistics 01/2010; 4(2):871-892. · 2.24 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Common DNA sequence variants inadequately explain variability in fat mass among individuals. Abnormal body weights are characteristic of specific imprinted-gene disorders. However, the relevance of imprinted genes to our understanding of obesity among the general population is uncertain. Hitherto unidentified imprinted genes and epigenetic mosaicism are two of the challenges for this emerging field of epigenetics. Subtle epigenetic differences in imprinted genes and gene networks are likely to be present among cells, tissues and individuals. In order to advance obesity research it will be necessary to use genome-wide, next-generation sequencing approaches that allow the detection of such epigenetic differences.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bisulfite treatment can be used to ascertain the methylation states of individual cytosines in DNA. Ideally, bisulfite treatment deaminates unmethylated cytosines to uracils, and leaves 5-methylcytosines unchanged. Two types of bisulfite-conversion error occur: inappropriate conversion of 5-methylcytosine to thymine, and failure to convert unmethylated cytosine to uracil. Conventional bisulfite treatment requires hours of exposure to low-molarity, low-temperature bisulfite ('LowMT') and, sometimes, thermal denaturation. An alternate, high-molarity, high-temperature ('HighMT') protocol has been reported to accelerate conversion and to reduce inappropriate conversion. We used molecular encoding to obtain validated, individual-molecule data on failed- and inappropriate-conversion frequencies for LowMT and HighMT treatments of both single-stranded and hairpin-linked oligonucleotides. After accounting for bisulfite-independent error, we found that: (i) inappropriate-conversion events accrue predominantly on molecules exposed to bisulfite after they have attained complete or near-complete conversion; (ii) the HighMT treatment is preferable because it yields greater homogeneity among sites and among molecules in conversion rates, and thus yields more reliable data; (iii) different durations of bisulfite treatment will yield data appropriate to address different experimental questions; and (iv) conversion errors can be used to assess the validity of methylation data collected without the benefit of molecular encoding.
Nucleic Acids Research 12/2008; 36(22):e150. · 8.28 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Obesity and type 2 diabetes arise from a set of complex gene-environment interactions. Explanations for the heritability of these syndromes and the environmental contribution to disease susceptibility are addressed by the "thrifty genotype" and the "thrifty phenotype" hypotheses. Here, the merits of both models are discussed and elements of them are used to synthesize a "thrifty epigenotype" hypothesis. I propose that: (1) metabolic thrift, the capacity for efficient acquisition, storage and use of energy, is an ancient, complex trait, (2) the environmentally responsive gene network encoding this trait is subject to genetic canalization and thereby has become robust against mutational perturbations, (3) DNA sequence polymorphisms play a minor role in the aetiology of obesity and type 2 diabetes-instead, disease susceptibility is predominantly determined by epigenetic variations, (4) corresponding epigenotypes have the potential to be inherited across generations, and (5) Leptin is a candidate gene for the acquisition of a thrifty epigenotype.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) has become the mainstay of DNA sequence analysis. Yet there is always uncertainty concerning the source of the template DNA that gave rise to a particular PCR product. The risks of contamination, biased amplification, and product redundancy are especially high when limited amounts of template DNA are used. We have developed and applied molecular encoding principles to solve this source-uncertainty problem for DNA sequences generated by standard PCR. Batch-stamps specify the date and sample identity, and barcodes detect template redundancy. Our approach thus enables classification of each PCR-derived sequence as valid, contaminant, or redundant, and provides a measure of sequence diversity. We recommend that batch-stamps and barcodes be used when amplifying irreplaceable DNAs and cDNAs available for forensic, clinical, single cell, and ancient DNA analyses.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The CHD family of proteins comprises ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling enzymes, which combine chromodomains, with SWI2/SNF2 ATPase/helicase motifs and DNA-binding capability. In the last few years, CHD proteins have drawn increased attention, because some of them were found to form large multi-subunit complexes, involved in transcription-related events like gene activation, suppression, or histone modification. We previously described the identification of CHD6, a protein of the CHD subfamily III. In the present study, we report that CHD6 is expressed in cells of human origin and in various mouse tissues. Subcellular distribution of CHD6 is restricted to the nucleoplasm. We further show that CHD6 colocalizes with both hypo- and hyper-phosphorlylated forms of RNA polymerase II. CHD6 was found to be present at sites of mRNA synthesis and to be part of a high molecular weight complex. Moreover, we demonstrate DNA-dependent ATPase activity of CHD6.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Leptin is a fat hormone regulating energy homeostasis. Here, it is reported that the promoter and CpG island of the autosomal gene Leptin (LEP) is a tissue-specific differentially methylated region (T-DMR) and subject to dynamic methylation in human and mouse in vivo. Highly variable densities of cytosine methylation were detected by hairpin-bisulfite PCR among cells in human adipose tissue and peripheral blood leukocytes. Intermediate and low levels of methylation characterize the majority of human LEP epialleles. Low-density epialleles are often methylated at a specific CG site within the binding element of the C/EBP-alpha transcription factor. In the human LEP promoter, the methylation frequency at that site is 1.8-fold as great as the average frequency for all other CG sites analyzed. The Lep promoter has a significantly higher methylation density in mouse somatic tissues than in the human LEP promoter. Though the LEP CpG island is generally unmethylated in both human and mouse sperm, depletion of CG sites within the mouse promoter indicates occasional presence of methylated Lep epialleles in the germline. These findings suggest that LEP promoter methylation is normally imposed during postzygotic development, and that this epigenetic mark may play a role in modulating expression of an important metabolic gene.
Epigenetics: official journal of the DNA Methylation Society 01/2006; 1(4):155-62. · 4.58 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Epigenetic inheritance, the transmission of gene expression states from parent to daughter cells, often involves methylation of DNA. In eukaryotes, cytosine methylation is a frequent component of epigenetic mechanisms. Failure to transmit faithfully a methylated or an unmethylated state of cytosine can lead to altered phenotypes in plants and animals. A central unresolved question in epigenetics concerns the mechanisms by which a locus maintains, or changes, its state of cytosine methylation. We developed "hairpin-bisulfite PCR" to analyze these mechanisms. This method reveals the extent of methylation symmetry between the complementary strands of individual DNA molecules. Using hairpin-bisulfite PCR, we determined the fidelity of methylation transmission in the CpG island of the FMR1 gene in human lymphocytes. For the hypermethylated CpG island of this gene, characteristic of inactive-X alleles, we estimate a maintenance methylation efficiency of approximately 0.96 per site per cell division. For de novo methylation efficiency (E(d)), remarkably different estimates were obtained for the hypermethylated CpG island (E(d) = 0.17), compared with the hypomethylated island on the active-X chromosome (E(d) < 0.01). These results clarify the mechanisms by which the alternative hypomethylated and hypermethylated states of CpG islands are stably maintained through many cell divisions. We also analyzed a region of human L1 transposable elements. These L1 data provide accurate methylation patterns for the complementary strand of each repeat sequence analyzed. Hairpin-bisulfite PCR will be a powerful tool in studying other processes for which genetic or epigenetic information differs on the two complementary strands of DNA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2004; 101(1):204-9. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: PCR amplification of limited amounts of DNA template carries an increased risk of product redundancy and contamination. We use molecular barcoding to label each genomic DNA template with an individual sequence tag prior to PCR amplification. In addition, we include molecular 'batch-stamps' that effectively label each genomic template with a sample ID and analysis date. This highly sensitive method identifies redundant and contaminant sequences and serves as a reliable method for positive identification of desired sequences; we can therefore capture accurately the genomic template diversity in the sample analyzed. Although our application described here involves the use of hairpin-bisulfite PCR for amplification of double-stranded DNA, the method can readily be adapted to single-strand PCR. Useful applications will include analyses of limited template DNA for biomedical, ancient DNA and forensic purposes.
Nucleic Acids Research 02/2004; 32(17):e135. · 8.28 Impact Factor