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      Cord blood hematopoietic cells from preterm infants display altered DNA methylation patterns

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          Premature infants are highly vulnerable to infection. This is partly attributable to the preterm immune system, which differs from that of the term neonate in cell composition and function. Multiple studies have found differential DNA methylation (DNAm) between preterm and term infants’ cord blood; however, interpretation of these studies is limited by the confounding factor of blood cell composition. This study evaluates the epigenetic impact of preterm birth in isolated hematopoietic cell populations, reducing the concern of cell composition differences.


          Genome-wide DNAm was measured using the Illumina 450K array in T cells, monocytes, granulocytes, and nucleated red blood cells (nRBCs) isolated from cord blood of 5 term and 5 preterm (<31 weeks gestational age) newborns. DNAm of hematopoietic cells was compared globally across the 450K array and through site-specific linear modeling.


          Nucleated red blood cells (nRBCs) showed the most extensive changes in DNAm, with 9258 differentially methylated (DM) sites (FDR < 5%, |Δβ| > 0.10) discovered between preterm and term infants compared to the <1000 prematurity-DM sites identified in white blood cell populations. The direction of DNAm change with gestational age at these prematurity-DM sites followed known patterns of hematopoietic differentiation, suggesting that term hematopoietic cell populations are more epigenetically mature than their preterm counterparts. Consistent shifts in DNAm between preterm and term cells were observed at 25 CpG sites, with many of these sites located in genes involved in growth and proliferation, hematopoietic lineage commitment, and the cytoskeleton. DNAm in preterm and term hematopoietic cells conformed to previously identified DNAm signatures of fetal liver and bone marrow, respectively.


          This study presents the first genome-wide mapping of epigenetic differences in hematopoietic cells across the late gestational period. DNAm differences in hematopoietic cells between term and <31 weeks were consistent with the hematopoietic origin of these cells during ontogeny, reflecting an important role of DNAm in their regulation. Due to the limited sample size and the high coincidence of prematurity and multiple births, the relationship between cause of preterm birth and DNAm could not be evaluated. These findings highlight gene regulatory mechanisms at both cell-specific and systemic levels that may be involved in fetal immune system maturation.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13148-017-0339-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 43

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          A comprehensive methylome map of lineage commitment from hematopoietic progenitors

          Epigenetic modifications must underlie lineage-specific differentiation as terminally differentiated cells express tissue-specific genes, but their DNA sequence is unchanged. Hematopoiesis provides a well-defined model to study epigenetic modifications during cell-fate decisions, as multipotent progenitors (MPPs) differentiate into progressively restricted myeloid or lymphoid progenitors. While DNA methylation is critical for myeloid versus lymphoid differentiation, as demonstrated by the myeloerythroid bias in Dnmt1 hypomorphs1, a comprehensive DNA methylation map of hematopoietic progenitors, or of any multipotent/oligopotent lineage, does not exist. Here we examined 4.6 million CpG sites throughout the genome for MPPs, common lymphoid progenitors (CLPs), common myeloid progenitors (CMPs), granulocyte/macrophage progenitors (GMPs), and thymocyte progenitors (DN1, DN2, DN3). Dramatic epigenetic plasticity accompanied both lymphoid and myeloid restriction. Myeloid commitment involved less global DNA methylation than lymphoid commitment, supported functionally by myeloid skewing of progenitors following treatment with a DNA methyltransferase inhibitor. Differential DNA methylation correlated with gene expression more strongly at CpG island shores than CpG islands. Many examples of genes and pathways not previously known to be involved in choice between lymphoid/myeloid differentiation have been identified, such as Arl4c and Jdp2. Several transcription factors, including Meis1, were methylated and silenced during differentiation, suggesting a role in maintaining an undifferentiated state. Additionally, epigenetic modification of modifiers of the epigenome appears to be important in hematopoietic differentiation. Our results directly demonstrate that modulation of DNA methylation occurs during lineage-specific differentiation and defines a comprehensive map of the methylation and transcriptional changes that accompany myeloid versus lymphoid fate decisions.
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            Activation of the Raf-MEK-ERK pathway is required for neutrophil extracellular trap formation.

            The signaling mechanisms leading to the formation of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), relevant in infections, sepsis and autoimmune diseases, are poorly understood. Neutrophils are not amenable to studies with conventional genetic techniques. Using a new chemical genetic analysis we show that the Raf-MEK-ERK pathway is involved in NET formation through activation of NADPH oxidase and upregulation of antiapoptotic proteins. We identify potential targets for drugs addressing NET-associated diseases.
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              Ontogeny of early life immunity.

              The human immune system comprises cellular and molecular components designed to coordinately prevent infection while avoiding potentially harmful inflammation and autoimmunity. Immunity varies with age, reflecting unique age-dependent challenges including fetal gestation, the neonatal phase, and infancy. Here, we review novel mechanistic insights into early life immunity, with an emphasis on emerging models of human immune ontogeny, which may inform age-specific translational development of novel anti-infectives, immunomodulators, and vaccines. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                (604)875-3229 , wrobinson@cfri.ca
                Clin Epigenetics
                Clin Epigenetics
                Clinical Epigenetics
                BioMed Central (London )
                20 April 2017
                20 April 2017
                : 9
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0684 7788, GRID grid.414137.4, , BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, ; Room 2082, 950W 28th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4H4 Canada
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2288 9830, GRID grid.17091.3e, Department of Medical Genetics, , University of British Columbia, ; Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3 Canada
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2288 9830, GRID grid.17091.3e, Department of Pediatrics, , University of British Columbia, ; Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3 Canada
                © The Author(s). 2017

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100000024, Canadian Institutes of Health Research;
                Award ID: MOP-123478
                Award ID: MOP-49520
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                © The Author(s) 2017


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