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.
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 http://epiexplorer.mpi-inf.mpg.de.
High-throughput sequencing is increasingly being used in combination with bisulfite (BS) assays to study DNA methylation at nucleotide resolution. Although several programmes provide genome-wide alignment of BS-treated reads, the resulting information is not readily interpretable and often requires further bioinformatic steps for meaningful analysis. Current post-alignment BS-sequencing programmes are generally focused on the gene-specific level, a restrictive feature when analysis in the non-coding regions, such as enhancers and intergenic microRNAs, is required. Here, we present Genome Bisulfite Sequencing Analyser (GBSA-http://ctrad-csi.nus.edu.sg/gbsa), a free open-source software capable of analysing whole-genome bisulfite sequencing data with either a gene-centric or gene-independent focus. Through analysis of the largest published data sets to date, we demonstrate GBSA’s features in providing sequencing quality assessment, methylation scoring, functional data management and visualization of genomic methylation at nucleotide resolution. Additionally, we show that GBSA’s output can be easily integrated with other high-throughput sequencing data, such as RNA-Seq or ChIP-seq, to elucidate the role of methylated intergenic regions in gene regulation. In essence, GBSA allows an investigator to explore not only known loci but also all the genomic regions, for which methylation studies could lead to the discovery of new regulatory mechanisms.
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.
The tumor suppressor genes MGMT and DAPK1 become methylated in several cancers including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). However, allelic methylation patterns have not been investigated in DLBCL. We developed a fast and cost-efficient method for the analysis of allelic methylation based on pyrosequencing of methylation specific PCR (MSP) products including a SNP. Allelic methylation patterns were reliably analyzed in standards of known allelic methylation status even when diluted in unmethylated DNA to below 1% methylation. When studying 148 DLBCL patients MGMT and DAPK1 methylation was observed in 19% and 89%, respectively, and among methylated and heterozygous patients 29% and 55%, respectively, were biallelically methylated. An association between the T-allele of the rs16906252 SNP and MGMT methylation was observed (p-value = 0.04), and DAPK1 methylation of the A-allele was associated with shorter overall survival (p-value = 0.006). In future cancer research allelic MSP-pyrosequencing may be used to study a wide range of other loci.
Epidemiological studies suggest that a father’s diet can influence offspring health. A proposed mechanism for paternal transmission of environmental information is via the sperm epigenome. The epigenome includes heritable information such as DNA methylation. We hypothesize that the dietary supply of methyl donors will alter epigenetic reprogramming in sperm. Here we feed male mice either a folate-deficient or folate-sufficient diet throughout life. Paternal folate deficiency is associated with increased birth defects in the offspring, which include craniofacial and musculoskeletal malformations. Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis and the subsequent functional analysis identify differential methylation in sperm of genes implicated in development, chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, autism and schizophrenia. While >300 genes are differentially expressed in offspring placenta, only two correspond to genes with differential methylation in sperm. This model suggests epigenetic transmission may involve sperm histone H3 methylation or DNA methylation and that adequate paternal dietary folate is essential for offspring health.
Advancing age progressively impacts on risk and severity of chronic disease. It also modifies the epigenome, with changes in DNA methylation, due to both random drift and variation within specific functional loci.
Resetting of the epigenome in human primordial germ cells (hPGCs) is critical for development. We show that the transcriptional program of hPGCs is distinct from that in mice, with co-expression of somatic specifiers and naive pluripotency genes TFCP2L1 and KLF4. This unique gene regulatory network, established by SOX17 and BLIMP1, drives comprehensive germline DNA demethylation by repressing DNA methylation pathways and activating TET-mediated hydroxymethylation. Base-resolution methylome analysis reveals progressive DNA demethylation to basal levels in week 5-7 in vivo hPGCs. Concurrently, hPGCs undergo chromatin reorganization, X reactivation, and imprint erasure. Despite global hypomethylation, evolutionarily young and potentially hazardous retroelements, like SVA, remain methylated. Remarkably, some loci associated with metabolic and neurological disorders are also resistant to DNA demethylation, revealing potential for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance that may have phenotypic consequences. We provide comprehensive insight on early human germline transcriptional network and epigenetic reprogramming that subsequently impacts human development and disease.
Epigenetic change is a hallmark of ageing but its link to ageing mechanisms in humans remains poorly understood. While DNA methylation at many CpG sites closely tracks chronological age, DNA methylation changes relevant to biological age are expected to gradually dissociate from chronological age, mirroring the increased heterogeneity in health status at older ages.
Mouse primordial germ cells (PGCs) undergo sequential epigenetic changes and genome-wide DNA demethylation to reset the epigenome for totipotency. Here, we demonstrate that erasure of CpG methylation (5mC) in PGCs occurs via conversion to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), driven by high levels of TET1 and TET2. Global conversion to 5hmC initiates asynchronously among PGCs at embryonic day (E) 9.5-E10.5 and accounts for the unique process of imprint erasure. Mechanistically, 5hmC enrichment is followed by its protracted decline thereafter at a rate consistent with replication-coupled dilution. The conversion to 5hmC is an important component of parallel redundant systems that drive comprehensive reprogramming in PGCs. Nonetheless, we identify rare regulatory elements that escape systematic DNA demethylation in PGCs, providing a potential mechanistic basis for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.