Distribution of a marker of germline methylation differs between major families of transposon-derived repeats in the human genome.
ABSTRACT: 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:Since the discovery of the high abundance of Alu elements in the human genome, the interest for the functional significance of these retrotransposons has been increasing. Primate Alu and rodent Alu-like elements are retrotransposed by a mechanism driven by the LINE1 (L1) encoded proteins, the same machinery that generates the L1 repeats, the processed pseudogenes (PPs), and other retroelements. Apart from free Alu RNAs, Alus are also transcribed and retrotranscribed as part of cellular gene transcripts, generally embedded inside 3' untranslated regions (UTRs). Despite different proposed hypotheses, the functional implication of the presence of Alus inside 3'UTRs remains elusive. In this study we hypothesized that Alu elements in 3'UTRs could be involved in the genesis of PPs. By analyzing human genome data we discovered that the existence of 3'UTR-embedded Alu elements is overrepresented in genes source of PPs. In contrast, the presence of other retrotransposable elements in 3'UTRs does not show this PP linked overrepresentation. This research was extended to mouse and rat genomes and the results accordingly reveal overrepresentation of 3'UTR-embedded B1 (Alu-like) elements in PP parent genes. Interestingly, we also demonstrated that the overrepresentation of 3'UTR-embedded Alus is particularly significant in PP parent genes with low germline gene expression level. Finally, we provide data that support the hypothesis that the L1 machinery is also the system that herpesviruses, and possibly other large DNA viruses, use to capture host genes expressed in germline or somatic cells. Altogether our results suggest a novel role for Alu or Alu-like elements inside 3'UTRs as facilitators of the genesis of PPs, particularly in lowly expressed genes. Moreover, we propose that this L1-driven mechanism, aided by the presence of 3'UTR-embedded Alus, may also be exploited by DNA viruses to incorporate host genes to their viral genomes.
Project description:Interspersed and tandem repeat sequences comprise the bulk of mammalian genomes. Interspersed repeats result from successive replication by transposable elements, such as Alu and long interspersed element type 1 (L1). Microsatellites are tandem repeats of 1-6 base pairs, among which poly(A) microsatellites are the most abundant in the human genome. The rise and fall of a microsatellite has been depicted as a life cycle. Previous studies have demonstrated that Alu and L1 insertions are a major source of A-rich microsatellites owing to the concurrent formation of a poly(A) DNA tract at the 3'-end of each insertion. The fate of such poly(A) tracts has been studied by surveying the length distribution of genomic resident Alu and L1 insertions. However, these cross-sectional studies provide no information about the tempo of mutation immediately after birth. In this study, de novo L1 insertions were created using a transgenic L1 mouse model and traced through generations to investigate the early life of poly(A) microsatellites. High frequencies of intra-individual and intergenerational shortening were observed for long poly(A) tracts, creating somatic and germline mosaicism at the insertion site, whereas little variation was observed for short poly(A) alleles. As poly(A) microsatellites are the major intrinsic signal for nucleosome positioning, their remarkable abundance and variability make them a significant source of epigenetic variation. Thus, the birth of poly(A) microsatellites from retrotransposons and the subsequent rapid and variable shortening represent a new way with which retrotransposons can modify the genetic and epigenetic architecture of our genome.
Project description:Loss of genome-wide methylation is a common feature of cancer, and the degree of hypomethylation has been correlated with genomic instability. Global methylation of repetitive elements possibly arose as a defense mechanism against parasitic DNA elements, including retrotransposons and viral pathogens. Given the alterations of global methylation in both viral infection and cancer, we examined genome-wide methylation levels in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), a cancer causally associated with human papilloma virus (HPV). We assayed global hypomethylation levels in 26 HNSCC samples, compared with their matched normal adjacent tissue, using Pyrosequencing-based methylation assays for LINE repeats. In addition, we examined cell lines derived from a variety of solid tumors for LINE and SINE (Alu) repeats. The degree of LINE and Alu hypomethylation varied among different cancer cell lines. There was only moderate correlation between LINE and Alu methylation levels, with the range of variation in methylation levels being greater for the LINE elements. LINE hypomethylation was more pronounced in HPV-negative than in HPV-positive tumors. Moreover, genomic instability, as measured by genome-wide loss-of-heterozygosity (LOH) single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis, was greater in HNSCC samples with more pronounced LINE hypomethylation. Global hypomethylation was variable in HNSCC. Its correlation with both HPV status and degree of LOH as a surrogate for genomic instability may reflect alternative oncogenic pathways in HPV-positive versus HPV-negative tumors.
Project description:Two abundant classes of mobile elements, namely Alu and L1 elements, continue to generate new retrotransposon insertions in human genomes. Estimates suggest that these elements have generated millions of new germline insertions in individual human genomes worldwide. Unfortunately, current technologies are not capable of detecting most of these young insertions, and the true extent of germline mutagenesis by endogenous human retrotransposons has been difficult to examine. Here, we describe technologies for detecting these young retrotransposon insertions and demonstrate that such insertions indeed are abundant in human populations. We also found that new somatic L1 insertions occur at high frequencies in human lung cancer genomes. Genome-wide analysis suggests that altered DNA methylation may be responsible for the high levels of L1 mobilization observed in these tumors. Our data indicate that transposon-mediated mutagenesis is extensive in human genomes and is likely to have a major impact on human biology and diseases.
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:DNA methylation of CpGs located in two types of repetitive elements-LINE1 (L1) and Alu-is used to assess "global" changes in DNA methylation in studies of human disease and environmental exposure. L1 and Alu contribute close to 30% of all base pairs in the human genome and transposition of repetitive elements is repressed through DNA methylation. Few studies have investigated whether repetitive element DNA methylation is associated with DNA methylation at other genomic regions, or the biological and technical factors that influence potential associations. Here, we assess L1 and Alu DNA methylation by Pyrosequencing of consensus sequences and using subsets of probes included in the Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation27 BeadChip array. We show that evolutionary age and assay method affect the assessment of repetitive element DNA methylation. Additionally, we compare Pyrosequencing results for repetitive elements to average DNA methylation of CpG islands, as assessed by array probes classified into strong, weak and non-islands. We demonstrate that each of these dispersed sequences exhibits different patterns of tissue-specific DNA methylation. Correlation of DNA methylation suggests an association between L1 and weak CpG island DNA methylation in some of the tissues examined. We caution, however, that L1, Alu and CpG island DNA methylation are distinct measures of dispersed DNA methylation and one should not be used in lieu of another. Analysis of DNA methylation data is complex and assays may be influenced by environment and pathology in different or complementary ways.
Project description:Retrotransposons are mobile genetic elements that use a germline 'copy-and-paste' mechanism to spread throughout metazoan genomes. At least 50 per cent of the human genome is derived from retrotransposons, with three active families (L1, Alu and SVA) associated with insertional mutagenesis and disease. Epigenetic and post-transcriptional suppression block retrotransposition in somatic cells, excluding early embryo development and some malignancies. Recent reports of L1 expression and copy number variation in the human brain suggest that L1 mobilization may also occur during later development. However, the corresponding integration sites have not been mapped. Here we apply a high-throughput method to identify numerous L1, Alu and SVA germline mutations, as well as 7,743 putative somatic L1 insertions, in the hippocampus and caudate nucleus of three individuals. Surprisingly, we also found 13,692 somatic Alu insertions and 1,350 SVA insertions. Our results demonstrate that retrotransposons mobilize to protein-coding genes differentially expressed and active in the brain. Thus, somatic genome mosaicism driven by retrotransposition may reshape the genetic circuitry that underpins normal and abnormal neurobiological processes.
Project description: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:Hypomethylation of DNA repetitive elements is a common finding in cancer, but very little is known about the DNA methylation changes of different types of DNA repetitive elements, such as interspersed repeats (LINE1 and Alu Yb8) and tandem repeats (Sat-alpha, NBL-2 and D4Z4). We used bisulfite-PCR Pyrosequencing to quantitatively measure the DNA methylation of five different DNA repetitive elements in normal tissue and cancer. In all we studied 10 different tissues from four individuals undergoing autopsy, 34 paired normal and tumor tissues from patients with bladder cancer, 58 patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia and 23 patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia. We found that the DNA methylation of interspersed repeats (LINE1 and Alu Yb8) was very consistent from person to person and tissue to tissue while tandem DNA repeats appeared more variable in normal tissues. In bladder cancer we found clear hypomethylation of LINE1, Alu Yb8, Sat-alpha and NBL-2. Conversely, we found an increase in the DNA methylation levels of D4Z4 from normal to cancer. In contrast leukemia showed no significant changes in the DNA methylation of LINE1 and Alu Yb8, but DNA methylation increases in NBL-2 and D4Z4 tandem repeats. Our findings show that the changes in DNA methylation levels of individual DNA repetitive elements are unique for each repetitive element, which may reflect distinct epigenetic factors and may have important implications in the use of DNA methylation of repetitive elements as global DNA methylation biomarkers.
Project description:Benzene, a known human carcinogen, and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity, are fuel-related pollutants. This study investigated the effect of these chemicals on epigenetic and transcriptional alterations in DNA repetitive elements. In 89 petrol station workers and 90 non-occupationally exposed subjects the transcriptional activity of retrotransposons (LINE-1, Alu), the methylation on repeated-element DNA, and of H3K9 histone, were investigated in peripheral blood lymphocytes. Median work shift exposure to benzene and MTBE was 59 and 408 µg/m³ in petrol station workers, and 4 and 3.5 µg/m³, in controls. Urinary benzene (BEN-U), S-phenylmercapturic acid, and MTBE were significantly higher in workers than in controls, while trans,trans-muconic acid (tt-MA) was comparable between the two groups. Increased BEN-U was associated with increased Alu-Y and Alu-J expression; moreover, increased tt-MA was associated with increased Alu-Y and Alu-J and LINE-1 (L1)-5'UTR expression. Among repetitive element methylation, only L1-Pa5 was hypomethylated in petrol station workers compared to controls. While L1-Ta and Alu-YD6 methylation was not associated with benzene exposure, a negative association with urinary MTBE was observed. The methylation status of histone H3K9 was not associated with either benzene or MTBE exposure. Overall, these findings only partially support previous observations linking benzene exposure with global DNA hypomethylation.