Characterization of DNA hypermethylation in the cerebellum of c9FTD/ALS patients

Department of Neuroscience, Mayo Clinic, 4500 San Pablo Road, Jacksonville, Florida 32224, USA.
Brain research (Impact Factor: 2.84). 10/2014; 1584. DOI: 10.1016/j.brainres.2014.02.015

ABSTRACT

A significant portion of patients suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), two diseases commonly seen in comorbidity, carry an expanded noncoding hexanucleotide repeat in the C9orf72 gene, a condition collectively referred to as c9FTD/ALS. Repeat expansions, also present in other neurodegenerative diseases, have been shown to alter epigenetic mechanisms and consequently lead to decreased gene expression, while also leading to toxic RNA gain-of-function. As expression of multiple C9orf72 transcript variants is known to be reduced in c9FTD/ALS cases, our group and others have sought to uncover the mechanisms causing this reduction. We recently demonstrated that histones H3 and H4 undergo trimethylation at lysines 9 (H3K9), 27 (H3K27), 79 (H3K79), and 20 (H4K20) in all pathogenic repeat carrier brain samples, confirming the role of altered histone methylation in disease. It was also reported that about 40% of c9ALS cases show hypermethylation of the CpG island located at the 5′ end of the repeat expansion in blood, frontal cortex, and spinal cord. To determine whether the same CpG island is hypermethylated in the cerebella of cases in whom aberrant histone methylation has been identified, we bisulfitemodified the extracted DNA and PCR-amplified 26 CpG sites within the C9orf72 promoter region. Among the ten c9FTD/ALS (4 c9ALS, 6 c9FTD), nine FTD/ALS, and eight disease control samples evaluated, only one c9FTD sample was found to be hypermethylated within the C9orf72 promoter region. This study is the first to report cerebellar hypermethylation in c9FTD/ALS, and the first to identify a c9FTD patient with aberrant DNA methylation. Future studies will need to evaluate hypermethylation of the C9orf72 promoter in a larger cohort of c9FTD patients, and to assess whether DNA methylation variation across brain regions reflects disease phenotype.

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Available from: Melissa Erin Murray, Feb 18, 2014
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    • "The C9orf72 protein product remains poorly characterized but structurally resembles Differentially Expressed in Normal and Neoplastic cells (DENN) proteins, which are involved in membrane trafficking processes (Zhang et al., 2012). Alleles with expansions larger than 30 repeats are enriched with repressive epigenetic marks within the gene promoter including histone 3 lysine 9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) and cytosine methylation (5mC) (Belzil et al., 2014). Such heterochromatinization corresponds to reduced transcription rates, leading to the hypothesis that haploinsufficiency may contribute to the pathology of C9orf72- related ALS and FTD (Gendron et al., 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: The G4C2-repeat expansion in C9orf72 is a common cause of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). C9orf72 transcription is reduced in expansion carriers implicating haploinsufficiency as one of the disease mechanisms. Indeed, our recent ALS study revealed that the expansion was associated with hypermethylation of the CpG-island (5′of the repeat) in DNA samples obtained from different tissues (blood, brain and spinal cord). However, the link between FTLD and methylation of the CpG-island is unknown. Hence, we investigated the methylation profile of the same CpG-island by bisulfite sequencing of DNA obtained from blood of 34 FTLD expansion carriers, 166 FTLD non-carriers and 103 controls. Methylation level was significantly higher in FTLD expansion carriers than non-carriers (P = 7.8E−13). Our results were confirmed by two methods (HhaI-assay and sequencing of cloned bisulfite PCR products). Hypermethylation occurred only in carriers of an allele with >50 repeats, and was not detected in non-carriers or individuals with an intermediate allele (22–43 repeats). As expected, the position/number of methylated CpGs was concordant between the sense and anti-sense DNA strand, suggesting that it is a stable epigenetic modification. Analysis of the combined ALS and FTLD datasets (82 expansion carriers) revealed that the degree of methylation of the entire CpG-island or contribution of specific CpGs (n = 26) is similar in both syndromes, with a trend towards a higher proportion of ALS patients with a high methylation level (P = 0.09). In conclusion, we demonstrated that hypermethylation of the CpG-island 5′of the G4C2-repeat is expansion-specific, but not syndrome-specific (ALS versus FTLD).
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