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Concept: Histone


Estimates of biological age based on DNA methylation patterns, often referred to as “epigenetic age”, “DNAm age”, have been shown to be robust biomarkers of age in humans. We previously demonstrated that independent of chronological age, epigenetic age assessed in blood predicted all-cause mortality in four human cohorts. Here, we expanded our original observation to 13 different cohorts for a total sample size of 13,089 individuals, including three racial/ethnic groups. In addition, we examined whether incorporating information on blood cell composition into the epigenetic age metrics improves their predictive power for mortality. All considered measures of epigenetic age acceleration were predictive of mortality (p≤8.2x10(-9)), independent of chronological age, even after adjusting for additional risk factors (p<5.4x10(-4)), and within the racial/ethnic groups that we examined (non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, African Americans). Epigenetic age estimates that incorporated information on blood cell composition led to the smallest p-values for time to death (p=7.5x10(-43)). Overall, this study a) strengthens the evidence that epigenetic age predicts all-cause mortality above and beyond chronological age and traditional risk factors, and b) demonstrates that epigenetic age estimates that incorporate information on blood cell counts lead to highly significant associations with all-cause mortality.

Concepts: DNA, Scientific method, Histone, DNA methylation


Chromatin modifiers regulate lifespan in several organisms, raising the question of whether changes in chromatin states in the parental generation could be incompletely reprogrammed in the next generation and thereby affect the lifespan of descendants. The histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) complex, composed of ASH-2, WDR-5 and the histone methyltransferase SET-2, regulates Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan. Here we show that deficiencies in the H3K4me3 chromatin modifiers ASH-2, WDR-5 or SET-2 in the parental generation extend the lifespan of descendants up until the third generation. The transgenerational inheritance of lifespan extension by members of the ASH-2 complex is dependent on the H3K4me3 demethylase RBR-2, and requires the presence of a functioning germline in the descendants. Transgenerational inheritance of lifespan is specific for the H3K4me3 methylation complex and is associated with epigenetic changes in gene expression. Thus, manipulation of specific chromatin modifiers only in parents can induce an epigenetic memory of longevity in descendants.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Histone, Epigenetics, DNA methylation, Methylation, Nucleosome


We tested the hypothesis that epigenetic mechanisms in the brain and the immune system are associated with chronic pain. Genome-wide DNA methylation assessed in 9 months post nerve-injury (SNI) and Sham rats, in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) as well as in T cells revealed a vast difference in the DNA methylation landscape in the brain between the groups and a remarkable overlap (72%) between differentially methylated probes in T cells and prefrontal cortex. DNA methylation states in the PFC showed robust correlation with pain score of animals in several genes involved in pain. Finally, only 11 differentially methylated probes in T cells were sufficient to distinguish SNI or Sham individual rats. This study supports the plausibility of DNA methylation involvement in chronic pain and demonstrates the potential feasibility of DNA methylation markers in T cells as noninvasive biomarkers of chronic pain susceptibility.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Brain, Histone, Epigenetics, Organism, DNA methylation, Premotor cortex


Bisphenol A (BPA) is a ubiquitous compound that is emerging as a possible toxicant during embryonic development. BPA has been shown to epigenetically affect the developing nervous system, but the molecular mechanisms are not clear. Here we demonstrate that BPA exposure in culture led to delay in the perinatal chloride shift caused by significant decrease in potassium chloride cotransporter 2 (Kcc2) mRNA expression in developing rat, mouse, and human cortical neurons. Neuronal chloride increased correspondingly. Treatment with epigenetic compounds decitabine and trichostatin A rescued the BPA effects as did knockdown of histone deacetylase 1 and combined knockdown histone deacetylase 1 and 2. Furthermore, BPA evoked increase in tangential interneuron migration and increased chloride in migrating neurons. Interestingly, BPA exerted its effect in a sexually dimorphic manner, with a more accentuated effect in females than males. By chromatin immunoprecipitation, we found a significant increase in binding of methyl-CpG binding protein 2 to the “cytosine-phosphate-guanine shores” of the Kcc2 promoter, and decrease in binding of acetylated histone H3K9 surrounding the transcriptional start site. Methyl-CpG binding protein 2-expressing neurons were more abundant resulting from BPA exposure. The sexually dimorphic effect of BPA on Kcc2 expression was also demonstrated in cortical neurons cultured from the offspring of BPA-fed mouse dams. In these neurons and in cortical slices, decitabine was found to rescue the effect of BPA on Kcc2 expression. Overall, our results indicate that BPA can disrupt Kcc2 gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms. Beyond increase in basic understanding, our findings have relevance for identifying unique neurodevelopmental toxicity mechanisms of BPA, which could possibly play a role in pathogenesis of human neurodevelopmental disorders.

Concepts: Nervous system, DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Transcription, Histone, Epigenetics, Histone deacetylase


Cognitive abilities and disorders unique to humans are thought to result from adaptively driven changes in brain transcriptomes, but little is known about the role of cis-regulatory changes affecting transcription start sites (TSS). Here, we mapped in human, chimpanzee, and macaque prefrontal cortex the genome-wide distribution of histone H3 trimethylated at lysine 4 (H3K4me3), an epigenetic mark sharply regulated at TSS, and identified 471 sequences with human-specific enrichment or depletion. Among these were 33 loci selectively methylated in neuronal but not non-neuronal chromatin from children and adults, including TSS at DPP10 (2q14.1), CNTN4 and CHL1 (3p26.3), and other neuropsychiatric susceptibility genes. Regulatory sequences at DPP10 and additional loci carried a strong footprint of hominid adaptation, including elevated nucleotide substitution rates and regulatory motifs absent in other primates (including archaic hominins), with evidence for selective pressures during more recent evolution and adaptive fixations in modern populations. Chromosome conformation capture at two neurodevelopmental disease loci, 2q14.1 and 16p11.2, revealed higher order chromatin structures resulting in physical contact of multiple human-specific H3K4me3 peaks spaced 0.5-1 Mb apart, in conjunction with a novel cis-bound antisense RNA linked to Polycomb repressor proteins and downregulated DPP10 expression. Therefore, coordinated epigenetic regulation via newly derived TSS chromatin could play an important role in the emergence of human-specific gene expression networks in brain that contribute to cognitive functions and neurological disease susceptibility in modern day humans.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Brain, Histone, Epigenetics, RNA


The association of histone modification changes with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has not been systematically examined. We conducted a histone acetylome-wide association study (HAWAS) by performing H3K27ac chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) on 257 postmortem samples from ASD and matched control brains. Despite etiological heterogeneity, ≥68% of syndromic and idiopathic ASD cases shared a common acetylome signature at >5,000 cis-regulatory elements in prefrontal and temporal cortex. Similarly, multiple genes associated with rare genetic mutations in ASD showed common “epimutations.” Acetylome aberrations in ASD were not attributable to genetic differentiation at cis-SNPs and highlighted genes involved in synaptic transmission, ion transport, epilepsy, behavioral abnormality, chemokinesis, histone deacetylation, and immunity. By correlating histone acetylation with genotype, we discovered >2,000 histone acetylation quantitative trait loci (haQTLs) in human brain regions, including four candidate causal variants for psychiatric diseases. Due to the relative stability of histone modifications postmortem, we anticipate that the HAWAS approach will be applicable to multiple diseases.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Brain, Histone, DNA repair, Cerebral cortex, Acetylation


DNA methylation is a chemical modification of cytosine bases that is pivotal for gene regulation, cellular specification and cancer development. Here, we describe an R package, methylKit, that rapidly analyzes genome-wide cytosine epigenetic profiles from high-throughput methylation and hydroxymethylation sequencing experiments. methylKit includes functions for clustering, sample quality visualization, differential methylation analysis and annotation features, thus automating and simplifying many of the steps for discerning statistically significant bases or regions of DNA methylation. Finally, we demonstrate methylKit on breast cancer data, in which we find statistically significant regions of differential methylation and stratify tumor subtypes. methylKit is available at

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Cancer, Breast cancer, Histone, Epigenetics, RNA, DNA methylation


Epigenome mapping consortia are generating resources of tremendous value for studying epigenetic regulation. To maximize their utility and impact, new tools are needed that facilitate interactive analysis of epigenome datasets. Here we describe EpiExplorer, a web tool for exploring genome and epigenome data on a genomic scale. We demonstrate EpiExplorer’s utility by describing a hypothesis-generating analysis of DNA hydroxymethylation in relation to public reference maps of the human epigenome. All EpiExplorer analyses are performed dynamically within seconds, using an efficient and versatile text indexing scheme that we introduce to bioinformatics. EpiExplorer is available at

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Histone, Human Genome Project, DNA methylation, Methylation, X-inactivation, Computational epigenetics


BACKGROUND: Understanding the mechanical properties of chromatin is an essential step towards deciphering the physicalrules of gene regulation. In the past ten years, many single molecule experiments have been carried out, andhigh resolution measurements of the chromatin fiber stiffness are now available. Simulations have been usedin order to link those measurements with structural cues, but so far no clear agreement among different groupshas been reached. RESULTS: We revisit here one of the most precise results obtained with carefully reconstituted fibers. CONCLUSIONS: We show that the mechanical properties of the chromatin fiber can be quantitatively accounted for by thestiffness of the DNA molecule and the 3D structure of the chromatin fiber.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Histone, RNA, Chromosome, Chromatin


Genome-wide DNA methylation reprogramming occurs in mouse primordial germ cells (PGCs) and preimplantation embryos, but the precise dynamics and biological outcomes are largely unknown. We have carried out whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (BS-Seq) and RNA-Seq across key stages from E6.5 epiblast to E16.5 PGCs. Global loss of methylation takes place during PGC expansion and migration with evidence for passive demethylation, but sequences that carry long-term epigenetic memory (imprints, CpG islands on the X chromosome, germline-specific genes) only become demethylated upon entry of PGCs into the gonads. The transcriptional profile of PGCs is tightly controlled despite global hypomethylation, with transient expression of the pluripotency network, suggesting that reprogramming and pluripotency are inextricably linked. Our results provide a framework for the understanding of the epigenetic ground state of pluripotency in the germline.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Molecular biology, Histone, Epigenetics, DNA methylation, Methylation