Changes of bivalent chromatin coincide with increased expression of developmental genes in cancer.
ABSTRACT: Bivalent (poised or paused) chromatin comprises activating and repressing histone modifications at the same location. This combination of epigenetic marks at promoter or enhancer regions keeps genes expressed at low levels but poised for rapid activation. Typically, DNA at bivalent promoters is only lowly methylated in normal cells, but frequently shows elevated methylation levels in cancer samples. Here, we developed a universal classifier built from chromatin data that can identify cancer samples solely from hypermethylation of bivalent chromatin. Tested on over 7,000 DNA methylation data sets from several cancer types, it reaches an AUC of 0.92. Although higher levels of DNA methylation are often associated with transcriptional silencing, counter-intuitive positive statistical dependencies between DNA methylation and expression levels have been recently reported for two cancer types. Here, we re-analyze combined expression and DNA methylation data sets, comprising over 5,000 samples, and demonstrate that the conjunction of hypermethylation of bivalent chromatin and up-regulation of the corresponding genes is a general phenomenon in cancer. This up-regulation affects many developmental genes and transcription factors, including dozens of homeobox genes and other genes implicated in cancer. Thus, we reason that the disturbance of bivalent chromatin may be intimately linked to tumorigenesis.
Project description:Many DNA-hypermethylated cancer genes are occupied by the Polycomb (PcG) repressor complex in embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Their prevalence in the full spectrum of cancers, the exact context of chromatin involved, and their status in adult cell renewal systems are unknown. Using a genome-wide analysis, we demonstrate that ~75% of hypermethylated genes are marked by PcG in the context of bivalent chromatin in both ESCs and adult stem/progenitor cells. A large number of these genes are key developmental regulators, and a subset, which we call the "DNA hypermethylation module," comprises a portion of the PcG target genes that are down-regulated in cancer. Genes with bivalent chromatin have a low, poised gene transcription state that has been shown to maintain stemness and self-renewal in normal stem cells. However, when DNA-hypermethylated in tumors, we find that these genes are further repressed. We also show that the methylation status of these genes can cluster important subtypes of colon and breast cancers. By evaluating the subsets of genes that are methylated in different cancers with consideration of their chromatin status in ESCs, we provide evidence that DNA hypermethylation preferentially targets the subset of PcG genes that are developmental regulators, and this may contribute to the stem-like state of cancer. Additionally, the capacity for global methylation profiling to cluster tumors by phenotype may have important implications for further refining tumor behavior patterns that may ultimately aid therapeutic interventions.
Project description:CpG islands (CGI) marked by bivalent chromatin in stem cells are believed to be more prone to aberrant DNA methylation in tumor cells. The robustness and genome-wide extent of this instructive program in different cancer types remain to be determined. To address this issue we developed a user-friendly approach to integrate the stem cell chromatin signature in customized DNA methylation analyses. We used publicly available ChIP-sequencing datasets of several human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines to determine the extent of bivalent chromatin genome-wide. We then created annotated lists of high-confidence bivalent, H3K4me3-only and H3K27me3-only chromatin regions. The main features of bivalent regions included localization in CGI/promoters, depletion in retroelements and enrichment in specific histone modifications, including the poorly characterized H3K23me2 mark. Moreover, bivalent promoters could be classified in three clusters based on PRC2 and PolII complexes occupancy. Genes with bivalent promoters of the PRC2-defined cluster displayed the lowest expression upon differentiation. As proof-of-concept, we assessed the DNA methylation pattern of eight types of tumors and confirmed that aberrant cancer-associated DNA hypermethylation preferentially targets CGI characterized by bivalent chromatin in hESCs. We also found that such aberrant DNA hypermethylation affected particularly bivalent CGI/promoters associated with genes that tend to remain repressed upon differentiation. Strikingly, bivalent CGI were the most affected by aberrant DNA hypermethylation in both CpG Island Methylator Phenotype-positive (CIMP+) and CIMP-negative tumors, suggesting that, besides transcriptional silencing in the pre-tumorigenic cells, the bivalent chromatin signature in hESCs is a key determinant of the instructive program for aberrant DNA methylation.
Project description:Epigenetic gene regulation is a key determinant of heritable gene expression patterns and is critical for normal cellular function. Dysregulation of epigenetic transcriptional control is a fundamental feature of cancer, particularly manifesting as increased promoter DNA methylation with associated aberrant gene silencing, which plays a significant role in tumor progression. We now globally map key chromatin parameters for genes with promoter CpG island DNA hypermethylation in colon cancer cells by combining microarray gene expression analyses with chromatin immunoprecipitation-on-chip technology. We first show that the silent state of such genes universally correlates with a broad distribution of a low but distinct level of the PcG-mediated histone modification, methylation of lysine 27 of histone 3 (H3K27me), and a very low level of the active mark H3K4me2. This chromatin pattern, and particularly H3K4me2 levels, crisply separates DNA-hypermethylated genes from those where histone deacetylation is responsible for transcriptional silencing. Moreover, the chromatin pattern can markedly enhance identification of truly silent and DNA-hypermethylated genes. We additionally find that when DNA-hypermethylated genes are demethylated and reexpressed, they adopt a bivalent chromatin pattern, which is associated with the poised gene expression state of a large group of embryonic stem cell genes and is characterized by an increase in levels of both the H3K27me3 and H3K4me2 marks. Our data have great relevance for the increasing interest in reexpression of DNA-hypermethylated genes for the treatment of cancer.
Project description:Developmental genes are silenced in embryonic stem cells by a bivalent histone-based chromatin mark. It has been proposed that this mark also confers a predisposition to aberrant DNA promoter hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) in cancer. We report here that silencing of a significant proportion of these TSGs in human embryonic and adult stem cells is associated with promoter DNA hypermethylation. Our results indicate a role for DNA methylation in the control of gene expression in human stem cells and suggest that, for genes repressed by promoter hypermethylation in stem cells in vivo, the aberrant process in cancer could be understood as a defect in establishing an unmethylated promoter during differentiation, rather than as an anomalous process of de novo hypermethylation.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Thousands of mammalian promoters are defined by co-enrichment of the histone tail modifications H3K27me3 (repressive) and H3K4me3 (activating) and are thus termed bivalent. It was previously observed that bivalent genes in human ES cells (hESC) are frequent targets for hypermethylation in human cancers, and depletion of DNA methylation in mouse embryonic stem cells has a marked impact on H3K27me3 distribution at bivalent promoters. However, only a fraction of bivalent genes in stem cells are targets of hypermethylation in cancer, and it is currently unclear whether all bivalent promoters are equally sensitive to DNA hypomethylation and whether H3K4me3 levels play a role in the interplay between DNA methylation and H3K27me3. RESULTS:We report the sub-classification of bivalent promoters into two groups-promoters with a high H3K27me3:H3K4me3 (hiBiv) ratio or promoters with a low H3K27me3:H3K4me3 ratio (loBiv). HiBiv are enriched in canonical Polycomb components, show a higher degree of local intrachromosomal contacts and are highly sensitive to DNA hypomethylation in terms of H3K27me3 depletion from broad Polycomb domains. In contrast, loBiv promoters are enriched in non-canonical Polycomb components, show lower intrachromosomal contacts and are less sensitive to DNA hypomethylation at the same genomic resolution. Multiple systems reveal that hiBiv promoters are more depleted of Polycomb complexes than loBiv promoters following a reduction in DNA methylation, and we demonstrate that H3K27me3 re-accumulates at promoters when DNA methylation is restored. In human cancer, we show that hiBiv promoters lose H3K27me3 and are more susceptible to DNA hypermethylation than loBiv promoters. CONCLUSION:We conclude that bivalency as a general term to describe mammalian promoters is an over-simplification and our sub-classification has revealed novel insights into the interplay between the largely antagonistic presence of DNA methylation and Polycomb systems at bivalent promoters. This approach redefines molecular pathologies underlying disease in which global DNA methylation is aberrant or where Polycomb mutations are present.
Project description:The discovery of cytosine hydroxymethylation (5-hmC) as a mechanism that potentially controls DNA methylation changes typical of neoplasia prompted us to investigate its behavior in colon cancer. 5-hmC is globally reduced in proliferating cells such as colon tumors and the gut crypt progenitors, from which tumors can arise. Here, we show that colorectal tumors and cancer cells express Ten-Eleven Translocation (TET) transcripts at levels similar to normal tissues. Genome-wide analyses show that promoters marked by 5-hmC in normal tissue, and those identified as TET2 targets in colorectal cancer cells, are resistant to methylation gain in cancer. In vitro studies of TET2 in cancer cells confirm that these promoters are resistant to methylation gain independently of sustained TET2 expression. We also find that a considerable number of the methylation gain-resistant promoters marked by 5-hmC in normal colon overlap with those that are marked with poised bivalent histone modifications in embryonic stem cells. Together our results indicate that promoters that acquire 5-hmC upon normal colon differentiation are innately resistant to neoplastic hypermethylation by mechanisms that do not require high levels of 5-hmC in tumors. Our study highlights the potential of cytosine modifications as biomarkers of cancerous cell proliferation. 5 normal colon samples and 4 matching tumor samples were profiled for 5-hydroxymethylcytosine content genomewide using hmeDIP-seq. The colorectal cancer cell line HCT116 was profiled for binding of TET2 genomewide by chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq).
Project description:Extensive changes in DNA methylation are common in cancer and may contribute to oncogenesis through transcriptional silencing of tumor-suppressor genes. Genome-scale studies have yielded important insights into these changes but have focused on CpG islands or gene promoters. We used whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (bisulfite-seq) to comprehensively profile a primary human colorectal tumor and adjacent normal colon tissue at single-basepair resolution. Regions of focal hypermethylation in the tumor were located primarily at CpG islands and were concentrated within regions of long-range (>100 kb) hypomethylation. These hypomethylated domains covered nearly half of the genome and coincided with late replication and attachment to the nuclear lamina in human cell lines. We confirmed the confluence of hypermethylation and hypomethylation within these domains in 25 diverse colorectal tumors and matched adjacent tissue. We propose that widespread DNA methylation changes in cancer are linked to silencing programs orchestrated by the three-dimensional organization of chromatin within the nucleus.
Project description:CpG, 5'-C-phosphate-G-3', islands (CGIs) have long been known for their association with enhancers, silencers, and promoters, and for their epigenetic signatures. They are maintained in embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in a poised but inactive state via the formation of bivalent chromatin containing both active and repressive marks. CGIs also occur within coding sequences, where their functional role has remained obscure. Intragenic CGIs (iCGIs) are largely absent from housekeeping genes, but they are found in all genes associated with organ development and cell lineage control. In this paper, we investigated the epigenetic status of iCGIs and found that they too reside in bivalent chromatin in ESCs. Cell type-specific DNA methylation of iCGIs in differentiated cells was linked to the loss of both the H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 marks, and disruption of physical interaction with promoter regions, resulting in transcriptional activation of key regulators of differentiation such as PAXs, HOXs, and WNTs. The differential epigenetic modification of iCGIs appears to be mediated by cell type-specific transcription factors distinct from those bound by promoter, and these transcription factors may be involved in the hypermethylation of iCGIs upon cell differentiation. iCGIs thus play a key role in the cell type-specific regulation of transcription.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4> Down syndrome (DS) is characterized by a genome-wide profile of differential DNA methylation that is skewed towards hypermethylation in most tissues, including brain, and includes pan-tissue differential methylation. The molecular mechanisms involve the overexpression of genes related to DNA methylation on chromosome 21. Here, we stably overexpressed the chromosome 21 gene DNA methyltransferase 3L (DNMT3L) in the human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cell line and assayed DNA methylation at over 26 million CpGs by whole genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) at three different developmental phases (undifferentiated, differentiating, and differentiated). <h4>Results</h4> DNMT3L overexpression resulted in global CpG and CpG island hypermethylation as well as thousands of differentially methylated regions (DMRs). The DNMT3L DMRs were skewed towards hypermethylation and mapped to genes involved in neurodevelopment, cellular signaling, and gene regulation. Consensus DNMT3L DMRs showed that cell lines clustered by genotype and then differentiation phase, demonstrating sets of common genes affected across neuronal differentiation. The hypermethylated DNMT3L DMRs from all pairwise comparisons were enriched for regions of bivalent chromatin marked by H3K4me3 as well as differentially methylated sites from previous DS studies of diverse tissues. In contrast, the hypomethylated DNMT3L DMRs from all pairwise comparisons displayed a tissue-specific profile enriched for regions of heterochromatin marked by H3K9me3 during embryonic development. <h4>Conclusions</h4> Taken together, these results support a mechanism whereby regions of bivalent chromatin that lose H3K4me3 during neuronal differentiation are targeted by excess DNMT3L and become hypermethylated. Overall, these findings demonstrate that DNMT3L overexpression during neurodevelopment recreates a facet of the genome-wide DS DNA methylation signature by targeting known genes and gene clusters that display pan-tissue differential methylation in DS. <h4>Supplementary Information</h4> The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s13072-021-00387-7.
Project description:H3K4 methylation is associated with active genes and, along with H3K27 methylation, is part of a bivalent chromatin mark that typifies poised developmental genes in ESCs. However, its functional roles in ESC maintenance and differentiation are not established. Here we show that mammalian Dpy-30, a core subunit of SET1/MLL complexes, biochemically modulates H3K4 methylation in vitro, and directly regulates chromosomal H3K4me3 throughout the mammalian genome. Depletion of Dpy-30 does not affect ESC self-renewal, but significantly alters the differentiation potential of ESCs, particularly along the neural lineage. The differentiation defect is accompanied by defects in gene induction and H3K4 methylation at key developmental loci. Our results provide strong experimental evidence for the hypothesis that H3K4 methylation is an essential functional component of the bivalent mark during activation of developmental genes in ESCs. Total RNAs from control or knockdown cells before and after RA-mediated differentiation were subjected to Illumina microarray analyses. ChIP-enriched DNA from mouse ES cells was analyzed by Solexa sequencing.