High-throughput sequence-based epigenomic analysis of Alu repeats in human cerebellum.
ABSTRACT: DNA methylation, the only known covalent modification of mammalian DNA, occurs primarily in CpG dinucleotides. 51% of CpGs in the human genome reside within repeats, and 25% within Alu elements. Despite that, no method has been reported for large-scale ascertainment of CpG methylation in repeats. Here we describe a sequencing-based strategy for parallel determination of the CpG-methylation status of thousands of Alu repeats, and a computation algorithm to design primers that enable their specific amplification from bisulfite converted genomic DNA. Using a single primer pair, we generated amplicons of high sequence complexity, and derived CpG-methylation data from 31 178 Alu elements and their 5' flanking sequences, altogether representing over 4 Mb of a human cerebellum epigenome. The analysis of the Alu methylome revealed that the methylation level of Alu elements is high in the intronic and intergenic regions, but low in the regions close to transcription start sites. Several hypomethylated Alu elements were identified and their hypomethylated status verified by pyrosequencing. Interestingly, some Alu elements exhibited a strikingly tissue-specific pattern of methylation. We anticipate the amplicons herein described to prove invaluable as epigenome representations, to monitor epigenomic alterations during normal development, in aging and in diseases such as cancer.
Project description:Global loss of DNA methylation has been known for decades as an epigenomic aberration associated with carcinogenesis and cancer progression. Loss of DNA methylation affects predominantly repetitive elements, which encompass >50% of the CpG dinucleotides present in the human genome. Because of the lack of an effective approach, no studies have been conducted to reveal such genome-wide methylation changes at a single-base resolution. To precisely determine the CpG sites with methylation loss during progression of pediatric intracranial ependymomas, we exploited a high-throughput bisulfite sequencing approach that simultaneously generates methylation profiles for thousands of Alu elements and their flanking sequences. Comparison of the methylation profiles of normal and tumor tissues revealed that the methylation status of the majority of CpG sites adjacent to or within Alu repeats remain unaltered, while a small set of CpG sites gain or lose methylation in ependymomas. Compared to the CpG sites with stable methylation level between normal control and ependymomas, the differentially methylated CpG sites are enriched in the sequences with low CpG density in the flanking regions of Alu repeats, rather than within the Alu sequences themselves. In addition, the CpG sites that are hypermethylated in ependymomas are proximal to CpG islands, whereas those that are hypomethylated are overrepresented in intergenic regions. Lastly, aberrant methylation of several genomic loci was confirmed to be associated with the aggressive primary tumors and the relapsed ependymomas.
Project description:Cancer cells exhibit multiple epigenetic changes with prominent local DNA hypermethylation and widespread hypomethylation affecting large chromosomal domains. Epigenome studies often disregard the study of repeat elements owing to technical complexity and their undefined role in genome regulation. We have developed NSUMA (Next-generation Sequencing of UnMethylated Alu), a cost-effective approach allowing the unambiguous interrogation of DNA methylation in more than 130,000 individual Alu elements, the most abundant retrotransposon in the human genome. DNA methylation profiles of Alu repeats have been analyzed in colon cancers and normal tissues using NSUMA and whole-genome bisulfite sequencing. Normal cells show a low proportion of unmethylated Alu (1%-4%) that may increase up to 10-fold in cancer cells. In normal cells, unmethylated Alu elements tend to locate in the vicinity of functionally rich regions and display epigenetic features consistent with a direct impact on genome regulation. In cancer cells, Alu repeats are more resistant to hypomethylation than other retroelements. Genome segmentation based on high/low rates of Alu hypomethylation allows the identification of genomic compartments with differential genetic, epigenetic, and transcriptomic features. Alu hypomethylated regions show low transcriptional activity, late DNA replication, and its extent is associated with higher chromosomal instability. Our analysis demonstrates that Alu retroelements contribute to define the epigenetic landscape of normal and cancer cells and provides a unique resource on the epigenetic dynamics of a principal, but largely unexplored, component of the primate genome.
Project description:A potential relationship between transposon-derived repeats (TDR) and human germline methylation is of biological importance since many genes are flanked by TDR and methylation could affect the expression of nearby genes. Furthermore, DNA methylation has been suggested as a global defense mechanism against genome instability threatened by TDR. We studied the correlation between the density of HapMap methyl-associated SNPs (mSNPs), a marker of germline methylation, and proportion of TDR. After correcting for confounding variables, we found a negative correlation between proportion of Alu repeats and mSNP density for 125-1000 kb windows. Similar results were found for the most active subgroup of repeats. In contrast, a negative correlation between proportion of L1 repeats and mSNP density was found only in the larger 1000 kb windows. Using methylation data on germ cells (sperm) from the Human Epigenome Project, we found a lower proportion of Alu repeats adjacent (3-15 kb) to hypermethylated amplicons. On the contrary, there was a higher proportion of L1 repeats in the 3-5 kb of sequence flanking hypermethylated amplicons but not in the 10-15 kb flanks. Our data indicate a differential response to the major repeat families and that DNA methylation is unlikely to be a uniform global defense system against all TDR. It appears to play a role for the L1 subgroup, with sequences adjacent to L1 repeats methylated in response to their proximity. In contrast, sequences adjacent to Alu repeats appear to be hypomethylated, arguing against a role of methylation in germline defense against those elements.
Project description:Alu repeats constitute a major fraction of human genome and for a small subset of them a role in gene regulation has been described. The number of studies focused on the functional characterization of particular Alu elements is very limited. Most Alu elements are DNA methylated and then assumed to lie in repressed chromatin domains. We hypothesize that Alu elements with low or variable DNA methylation are candidates for a functional role. In a genome-wide study in normal and cancer tissues, we pinpointed an Alu repeat (AluSq2) with differential methylation located upstream of the promoter region of the <i>DIEXF</i> gene. <i>DIEXF</i> encodes a highly conserved factor essential for the development of zebrafish digestive tract. To characterize the contribution of the Alu element to the regulation of <i>DIEXF</i> we analysed the epigenetic landscapes of the gene promoter and flanking regions in different cell types and cancers. Alternate epigenetic profiles (DNA methylation and histone modifications) of the AluSq2 element were associated with <i>DIEXF</i> transcript diversity as well as protein levels, while the epigenetic profile of the CpG island associated with the <i>DIEXF</i> promoter remained unchanged. These results suggest that AluSq2 might directly contribute to the regulation of <i>DIEXF</i> transcription and protein expression. Moreover, AluSq2 was DNA hypomethylated in different cancer types, pointing out its putative contribution to <i>DIEXF</i> alteration in cancer and its potential as tumoural biomarker.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Alu methylation is correlated with the overall level of DNA methylation and recombination activity of the genome. However, the maintenance and methylation status of each CpG site within Alu elements (Alu) and its methylation status have not well characterized. This information is useful for understanding natural status of Alu in the genome and helpful for developing an optimal assay to quantify Alu hypomethylation. METHODS: Bisulfite clone sequencing was carried out in 14 human gastric samples initially. A Cac8I COBRA-DHPLC assay was developed to detect methylated-Alu proportion in cell lines and 48 paired gastric carcinomas and 55 gastritis samples. DHPLC data were statistically interpreted using SPSS version 16.0. RESULTS: From the results of 427 Alu bisulfite clone sequences, we found that only 27.2% of CpG sites within Alu elements were preserved (4.6 of 17 analyzed CpGs, A approximately Q) and that 86.6% of remaining-CpGs were methylated. Deamination was the main reason for low preservation of methylation targets. A high correlation coefficient of methylation was observed between Alu clones and CpG site J (0.963), A (0.950), H (0.946), D (0.945). Comethylation of the sites H and J were used as an indicator of the proportion of methylated-Alu in a Cac8I COBRA-DHPLC assay. Validation studies showed that hypermethylation or hypomethylation of Alu elements in human cell lines could be detected sensitively by the assay after treatment with 5-aza-dC and M.SssI, respectively. The proportion of methylated-Alu copies in gastric carcinomas (3.01%) was significantly lower than that in the corresponding normal samples (3.19%) and gastritis biopsies (3.23%). CONCLUSIONS: Most Alu CpG sites are deaminated in the genome. 27% of Alu CpG sites represented in our amplification products. 87% of the remaining CpG sites are methylated. Alu hypomethylation in primary gastric carcinomas could be detected with the Cac8I COBRA-DHPLC assay quantitatively.
Project description:Methylation of the cytosine is the most frequent epigenetic modification of DNA in mammalian cells. In humans, most of the methylated cytosines are found in CpG-rich sequences within tandem and interspersed repeats that make up to 45% of the human genome, being Alu repeats the most common family. Demethylation of Alu elements occurs in aging and cancer processes and has been associated with gene reactivation and genomic instability. By targeting the unmethylated SmaI site within the Alu sequence as a surrogate marker, we have quantified and identified unmethylated Alu elements on the genomic scale. Normal colon epithelial cells contain in average 25 486 +/- 10 157 unmethylated Alu's per haploid genome, while in tumor cells this figure is 41 995 +/- 17 187 (P = 0.004). There is an inverse relationship in Alu families with respect to their age and methylation status: the youngest elements exhibit the highest prevalence of the SmaI site (AluY: 42%; AluS: 18%, AluJ: 5%) but the lower rates of unmethylation (AluY: 1.65%; AluS: 3.1%, AluJ: 12%). Data are consistent with a stronger silencing pressure on the youngest repetitive elements, which are closer to genes. Further insights into the functional implications of atypical unmethylation states in Alu elements will surely contribute to decipher genomic organization and gene regulation in complex organisms.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Alu repeats, belonging to the Short Interspersed Repetitive Elements (SINEs) class, contain about 25% of CpG sites in the human genome. Alu sequences lie in gene-rich regions, so their methylation is an important transcriptional regulation mechanism. Aberrant Alu methylation has been associated with tumor aggressiveness, and also previously discussed in hematological malignancies, by applying different approaches. Moreover, today different techniques designed to measure global DNA methylation are focused on the methylation level of specific repeat elements. In this work we propose a new method of investigating Alu differential methylation, based on droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) technology. METHODS:Forty-six patients with hematological neoplasms were included in the study: 30 patients affected by chronic lymphocytic leukemia, 7 patients with myelodysplastic syndromes at intermediate/high risk, according with the International Prognostic Scoring System, and 9 patients with myelomonocytic leukemia. Ten healthy donors were included as controls. Acute promyelocytic leukemia-derived NB4 cell line, either untreated or treated with decitabine (DEC) hypomethylating agent, was also analyzed. DNA samples were investigated for Alu methylation level by digestion of genomic DNA with isoschizomers with differential sensitivity to DNA methylation, followed by ddPCR. RESULTS:Using ddPCR, a significant decrease of the global Alu methylation level in DNA extracted from NB4 cells treated with DEC, as compared to untreated cells, was observed. Moreover, comparing the global Alu methylation levels at diagnosis and after azacytidine (AZA) treatment in MDS patients, a statistically significant decrease of Alu sequences methylation after therapy as compared to diagnosis was evident. We also observed a significant decrease of the Alu methylation level in CLL patients compared to HD, and, finally, for CMML patients, a decrease of Alu sequences methylation was observed in patients harboring the SRSF2 hotspot gene mutation c.284C>D. CONCLUSIONS:In our work, we propose a method to investigate Alu differential methylation based on ddPCR technology. This assay introduces ddPCR as a more sensitive and immediate technique for Alu methylation analysis. To date, this is the first application of ddPCR to study DNA repetitive elements. This approach may be useful to profile patients affected by hematologic malignancies for diagnostic/prognostic purpose.
Project description:DNA methylation is the major repression mechanism for human retrotransposons, such as the Alu family. Here, we have determined the methylation levels associated with 5238 loci belonging to 2 Alu subfamilies, AluYa5 and AluYb8, using high-throughput targeted repeat element bisulfite sequencing (HT-TREBS). The results indicate that ?90% of loci are repressed by high methylation levels. Of the remaining loci, many of the hypomethylated elements are found near gene promoters and show high levels of DNA methylation variation. We have characterized this variation in the context of tumorigenesis and interindividual differences. Comparison of a primary breast tumor and its matched normal tissue revealed early DNA methylation changes in ?1% of AluYb8 elements in response to tumorigenesis. Simultaneously, AluYa5/Yb8 elements proximal to promoters also showed differences in methylation of up to one order of magnitude, even between normal individuals. Overall, the current study demonstrates that early loss of methylation occurs during tumorigenesis in a subset of young Alu elements, suggesting their potential clinical relevance. However, approaches such as deep-bisulfite-sequencing of individual loci using HT-TREBS are required to distinguish clinically relevant loci from the background observed for AluYa5/Yb8 elements in general with regard to high levels of interindividual variation in DNA methylation.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The signals that determine atherosclerosis-specific DNA methylation profiles are only partially known. We previously identified a 29-bp DNA motif (differential methylation motif [DMM]) proximal to CpG islands (CGIs) that undergo demethylation in advanced human atheromas. Those data hinted that the DMM docks modifiers of DNA methylation and transcription. METHODS AND RESULTS:We sought to functionally characterize the DMM. We showed that the DMM overlaps with the RNA polymerase III-binding B box of Alu short interspersed nuclear elements and contains a DR2 nuclear receptor response element. Pointing to a possible functional role for an Alu DMM, CGIs proximal (<100 bp) to near-intact DMM-harboring Alu are significantly less methylated relative to CGIs proximal to degenerate DMM-harboring Alu or to DMM-devoid mammalian-wide interspersed repeat short interspersed nuclear elements in human arteries. As for DMM-binding factors, LXRB (liver X receptor β) binds the DMM in a DR2-dependent fashion, and LXR (liver X receptor) agonists induce significant hypermethylation of the bulk of Alu in THP-1 cells. Furthermore, we describe 3 intergenic long noncoding RNAs that harbor a DMM, are under transcriptional control by LXR agonists, and are differentially expressed between normal and atherosclerotic human aortas. Notably, CGIs adjacent to those long noncoding RNAs tend to be hypomethylated in symptomatic relative to stable human atheromas. CONCLUSIONS:Collectively, the data suggest that a DMM is associated with 2 distinct methylation states: relatively low methylation of in cis CGIs and Alu element hypermethylation. Based on the known atheroprotective role of LXRs, we propose that LXR agonist-induced Alu hypermethylation, a landmark of atherosclerosis, is a compensatory rather than proatherogenic response.
Project description:BACKGROUND: A loss of heterozygosity (LOH) represents a unilateral chromosomal loss that reduces the dose of highly repetitive Alu, L1, and LTR retroelements. The aim of this study was to determine if the LOH events can affect the spread of retroelement methylation in the 5'-end transitional area between the CpG islands and their nearest retroelements. METHODS: The 5'-transitional area of all human genes (22,297) was measured according to the nearest retroelements to the transcription start sites. For 50 gastric cancer specimens, the level of LOH events on eight cancer-associated chromosomes was estimated using the microsatellite markers, and the 5'-transitional CpGs of 20 selected genes were examined by methylation analysis using the bisulfite-modified DNA. RESULTS: The extent of the transitional area was significantly shorter with the nearest Alu elements than with the nearest L1 and LTR elements, as well as in the extragenic regions containing a higher density of retroelements than in the intragenic regions. The CpG islands neighbouring a high density of Alu elements were consistently hypomethylated in both normal and tumor tissues. The 5'-transitional methylated CpG sites bordered by a low density of Alu elements or the L1 and LTR elements were hypomethylated more frequently in the high-level LOH cases than in the low-level LOH cases. CONCLUSION: The 5'-transitional methylated CpG sites not completely protected by the Alu elements were hypomethylated in association with LOH events in gastric cancers. This suggests that an irreversible unbalanced decrease in the genomic dose reduces the spread of L1 methylation in the 5'-end regions of genes.