Rutger A. F. Gjaltema 1 , 2 , Désirée Goubert 1 , Christian Huisman 1 , Consuelo del Pilar García Tobilla 1 , Mihály Koncz 3 , 4 , Pytrick G. Jellema 1 , 2 , Dandan Wu 1 , Uilke Brouwer 1 , 2 , Antal Kiss 3 , Pernette J. Verschure 5 , Ruud A. Bank 2 , Marianne G. Rots 1 , *
21 May 2020
Epigenetic editing, an emerging technique used for the modulation of gene expression in mammalian cells, is a promising strategy to correct disease-related gene expression. Although epigenetic reprogramming results in sustained transcriptional modulation in several in vivo models, further studies are needed to develop this approach into a straightforward technology for effective and specific interventions. Important goals of current research efforts are understanding the context-dependency of successful epigenetic editing and finding the most effective epigenetic effector(s) for specific tasks. Here we tested whether the fibrosis- and cancer-associated PLOD2 gene can be repressed by the DNA methyltransferase M.SssI, or by the non-catalytic Krüppel associated box (KRAB) repressor directed to the PLOD2 promoter via zinc finger- or CRISPR-dCas9-mediated targeting. M.SssI fusions induced de novo DNA methylation, changed histone modifications in a context-dependent manner, and led to 50%–70% reduction in PLOD2 expression in fibrotic fibroblasts and in MDA-MB-231 cancer cells. Targeting KRAB to PLOD2 resulted in the deposition of repressive histone modifications without DNA methylation and in almost complete PLOD2 silencing. Interestingly, both long-term TGFβ1-induced, as well as unstimulated PLOD2 expression, was completely repressed by KRAB, while M.SssI only prevented the TGFβ1-induced PLOD2 expression. Targeting transiently expressed dCas9-KRAB resulted in sustained PLOD2 repression in HEK293T and MCF-7 cells. Together, these findings point to KRAB outperforming DNA methylation as a small potent targeting epigenetic effector for silencing TGFβ1-induced and uninduced PLOD2 expression.