[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cancer cells typically exhibit aberrant DNA methylation patterns that can drive malignant transformation. Whether cancer cells are dependent on these abnormal epigenetic modifications remains elusive. We used experimental and bioinformatic approaches to unveil genomic regions that require DNA methylation for survival of cancer cells. First, we surveyed the residual DNA methylation profiles in cancer cells with highly impaired DNA methyltransferases. Then, we clustered these profiles according to their DNA methylation status in primary normal and tumor tissues. Finally, we used gene expression meta-analysis to identify regions that are dependent on DNA methylation-mediated gene silencing. We further showed experimentally that these genes must be silenced by DNA methylation for cancer cell survival, suggesting these are key epigenetic events associated with tumorigenesis.
Cancer cell 05/2012; 21(5):655-67. · 25.29 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Highlights
► An approach to discriminate between “driver” and “passenger” epigenetic events ► Cancer cells become dependent on DNA methylation of a few key target genes ► Somatic cells depend on DNA methylation to silence some germline-specific genes ► Cells in culture rely on aberrant DNA methylation for survival
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: DNA methylation, histone modifications and nucleosome occupancy act in concert for regulation of gene expression patterns in mammalian cells. Recently, G9a, a H3K9 methyltransferase, has been shown to play a role in establishment of DNA methylation at embryonic gene targets in ES cells through recruitment of de novo DNMT3A/3B enzymes. However, whether G9a plays a similar role in maintenance of DNA methylation in somatic cells is still unclear.
Here we show that G9a is not essential for maintenance of DNA methylation in somatic cells. Knockdown of G9a has no measurable effect on DNA methylation levels at G9a-target loci. DNMT3A/3B remain stably anchored to nucleosomes containing methylated DNA even in the absence of G9a, ensuring faithful propagation of methylated states in cooperation with DNMT1 through somatic divisions. Moreover, G9a also associates with nucleosomes in a DNMT3A/3B and DNA methylation-independent manner. However, G9a knockdown synergizes with pharmacologic inhibition of DNMTs resulting in increased hypomethylation and inhibition of cell proliferation.
Taken together, these data suggest that G9a is not involved in maintenance of DNA methylation in somatic cells but might play a role in re-initiation of de novo methylation after treatment with hypomethylating drugs, thus serving as a potential target for combinatorial treatments strategies involving DNMTs inhibitors.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: How epigenetic information is propagated during somatic cell divisions is still unclear but is absolutely critical for preserving gene expression patterns and cellular identity. Here we show an unanticipated mechanism for inheritance of DNA methylation patterns where the epigenetic mark not only recruits the catalyzing enzyme but also regulates the protein level, i.e. the enzymatic product (5-methylcytosine) determines the level of the methylase, thus forming a novel homeostatic inheritance system. Nucleosomes containing methylated DNA stabilize de novo DNA methyltransferases, DNMT3A/3B, allowing little free DNMT3A/3B enzymes to exist in the nucleus. Stabilization of DNMT3A/3B on nucleosomes in methylated regions further promotes propagation of DNA methylation. However, reduction of cellular DNA methylation levels creating more potential CpG substrates counter-intuitively results in a dramatic decrease of DNMT3A/3B proteins due to diminished nucleosome binding and subsequent degradation of the unstable free proteins. These data show an unexpected self-regulatory inheritance mechanism that not only ensures somatic propagation of methylated states by DNMT1 and DNMT3A/3B enzymes but also prevents aberrant de novo methylation by causing degradation of free DNMT3A/3B enzymes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It was recently shown that a large portion of the human transcriptome can originate from within repetitive elements, leading to ectopic expression of protein-coding genes. However the mechanism of transcriptional activation of repetitive elements has not been definitively elucidated. For the first time, we directly demonstrate that hypomethylation of retrotransposons can cause altered gene expression in humans. We also reveal that active LINE-1s switch from a tetranucleosome to dinucleosome structure, acquiring H2A.Z- and nucleosome-free regions upstream of TSSs, previously shown only at active single-copy genes. Hypomethylation of a specific LINE-1 promoter was also found to induce an alternate transcript of the MET oncogene in bladder tumors and across the entire urothelium of tumor-bearing bladders. These data show that, in addition to contributing to chromosomal instability, hypomethylation of LINE-1s can alter the functional transcriptome and plays a role not only in human disease but also in disease predisposition.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Epigenetic mechanisms are essential for normal development and maintenance of tissue-specific gene expression patterns in mammals. Disruption of epigenetic processes can lead to altered gene function and malignant cellular transformation. Global changes in the epigenetic landscape are a hallmark of cancer. The initiation and progression of cancer, traditionally seen as a genetic disease, is now realized to involve epigenetic abnormalities along with genetic alterations. Recent advancements in the rapidly evolving field of cancer epigenetics have shown extensive reprogramming of every component of the epigenetic machinery in cancer including DNA methylation, histone modifications, nucleosome positioning and non-coding RNAs, specifically microRNA expression. The reversible nature of epigenetic aberrations has led to the emergence of the promising field of epigenetic therapy, which is already making progress with the recent FDA approval of three epigenetic drugs for cancer treatment. In this review, we discuss the current understanding of alterations in the epigenetic landscape that occur in cancer compared with normal cells, the roles of these changes in cancer initiation and progression, including the cancer stem cell model, and the potential use of this knowledge in designing more effective treatment strategies.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Proper DNA methylation patterns are essential for mammalian development and differentiation. DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) primarily establish and maintain global DNA methylation patterns; however, the molecular mechanisms for the generation and inheritance of methylation patterns are still poorly understood. We used sucrose density gradients of nucleosomes prepared by partial and maximum micrococcal nuclease digestion, coupled with Western blot analysis to probe for the interactions between DNMTs and native nucleosomes. This method allows for analysis of the in vivo interactions between the chromatin modification enzymes and their actual nucleosomal substrates in the native state. We show that little free DNA methyltransferase 3A and 3B (DNMT3A/3B) exist in the nucleus and that almost all of the cellular contents of DNMT3A/3B, but not DNMT1, are strongly anchored to a subset of nucleosomes. This binding of DNMT3A/3B does not require the presence of other well-known chromatin-modifying enzymes or proteins, such as proliferating cell nuclear antigen, heterochromatin protein 1, methyl-CpG binding protein 2, Enhancer of Zeste homolog 2, histone deacetylase 1, and UHRF1, but it does require an intact nucleosomal structure. We also show that nucleosomes containing methylated SINE and LINE elements and CpG islands are the main sites of DNMT3A/3B binding. These data suggest that inheritance of DNA methylation requires cues from the chromatin component in addition to hemimethylation.
Molecular and Cellular Biology 08/2009; 29(19):5366-76. · 5.04 Impact Factor