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      Extensive Epigenetic Changes Accompany Terminal Differentiation of Mouse Hepatocytes After Birth

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          DNA methylation is traditionally thought to be established during early development and to remain mostly unchanged thereafter in healthy tissues, although recent studies have shown that this epigenetic mark can be more dynamic. Epigenetic changes occur in the liver after birth, but the timing and underlying biological processes leading to DNA methylation changes are not well understood. We hypothesized that this epigenetic reprogramming was the result of terminal differentiation of hepatocyte precursors. Using genomic approaches, we characterized the DNA methylation patterns in mouse liver from E18.5 until adulthood to determine if the timing of the DNA methylation change overlaps with hepatocyte terminal differentiation, and to examine the genomic context of these changes and identify the regulatory elements involved. Out of 271,325 CpGs analyzed throughout the genome, 214,709 CpGs changed DNA methylation by more than 5% ( e.g., from 5 to 10% methylation) between E18.5 and 9 wk of age, and 18,863 CpGs changed DNA methylation by more than 30%. Genome-scale data from six time points between E18.5 and P20 show that DNA methylation changes coincided with the terminal differentiation of hepatoblasts into hepatocytes. We also showed that epigenetic reprogramming occurred primarily in intergenic enhancer regions while gene promoters were less affected. Our data suggest that normal postnatal hepatic development and maturation involves extensive epigenetic remodeling of the genome, and that enhancers play a key role in controlling the transition from hepatoblasts to fully differentiated hepatocytes. Our study provides a solid foundation to support future research aimed at further revealing the role of epigenetics in stem cell biology.

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          Most cited references 27

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          A unique chromatin signature uncovers early developmental enhancers in humans.

          Cell-fate transitions involve the integration of genomic information encoded by regulatory elements, such as enhancers, with the cellular environment. However, identification of genomic sequences that control human embryonic development represents a formidable challenge. Here we show that in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), unique chromatin signatures identify two distinct classes of genomic elements, both of which are marked by the presence of chromatin regulators p300 and BRG1, monomethylation of histone H3 at lysine 4 (H3K4me1), and low nucleosomal density. In addition, elements of the first class are distinguished by the acetylation of histone H3 at lysine 27 (H3K27ac), overlap with previously characterized hESC enhancers, and are located proximally to genes expressed in hESCs and the epiblast. In contrast, elements of the second class, which we term 'poised enhancers', are distinguished by the absence of H3K27ac, enrichment of histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3), and are linked to genes inactive in hESCs and instead are involved in orchestrating early steps in embryogenesis, such as gastrulation, mesoderm formation and neurulation. Consistent with the poised identity, during differentiation of hESCs to neuroepithelium, a neuroectoderm-specific subset of poised enhancers acquires a chromatin signature associated with active enhancers. When assayed in zebrafish embryos, poised enhancers are able to direct cell-type and stage-specific expression characteristic of their proximal developmental gene, even in the absence of sequence conservation in the fish genome. Our data demonstrate that early developmental enhancers are epigenetically pre-marked in hESCs and indicate an unappreciated role of H3K27me3 at distal regulatory elements. Moreover, the wealth of new regulatory sequences identified here provides an invaluable resource for studies and isolation of transient, rare cell populations representing early stages of human embryogenesis.
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            Understanding the language of Lys36 methylation at histone H3.

            Histone side chains are post-translationally modified at multiple sites, including at Lys36 on histone H3 (H3K36). Several enzymes from yeast and humans, including the methyltransferases SET domain-containing 2 (Set2) and nuclear receptor SET domain-containing 1 (NSD1), respectively, alter the methylation status of H3K36, and significant progress has been made in understanding how they affect chromatin structure and function. Although H3K36 methylation is most commonly associated with the transcription of active euchromatin, it has also been implicated in diverse processes, including alternative splicing, dosage compensation and transcriptional repression, as well as DNA repair and recombination. Disrupted placement of methylated H3K36 within the chromatin landscape can lead to a range of human diseases, underscoring the importance of this modification.
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              Chromatin modifying enzymes as modulators of reprogramming

              Generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) by somatic cell reprogramming involves global epigenetic remodeling 1 . While several proteins are known to regulate chromatin marks associated with the distinct epigenetic states of cells before and after reprogramming 2,3 , the role of specific chromatin modifying enzymes in reprogramming remains to be determined. To address how chromatin-modifying proteins influence reprogramming, we used shRNAs to target genes in DNA and histone methylation pathways, and have identified positive and negative modulators of iPSC generation. While inhibition of the core components of the polycomb repressive complex 1 and 2, including the histone 3 lysine 27 methyltransferase Ezh2, reduced reprogramming efficiency, suppression of SUV39H1, YY1, and Dot1L enhanced reprogramming. Specifically, inhibition of the H3K79 histone methyltransferase Dot1L by shRNA or a small molecule accelerated reprogramming, significantly increased the yield of iPSC colonies, and substituted for Klf4 and c-Myc. Inhibition of Dot1L early in the reprogramming process is associated with a marked increase in two alternative factors, Nanog and Lin28, which play essential functional roles in the enhancement of reprogramming. Genome-wide analysis of H3K79me2 distribution revealed that fibroblast-specific genes associated with the epithelial to mesenchymal transition lose H3K79me2 in the initial phases of reprogramming. Dot1L inhibition facilitates the loss of this mark from genes that are fated to be repressed in the pluripotent state. These findings implicate specific chromatin-modifying enzymes as barriers to or facilitators of reprogramming, and demonstrate how modulation of chromatin-modifying enzymes can be exploited to more efficiently generate iPSCs with fewer exogenous transcription factors.

                Author and article information

                G3 (Bethesda)
                G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
                G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
                G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
                G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics
                Genetics Society of America
                21 September 2016
                November 2016
                : 6
                : 11
                : 3701-3709
                [* ]Genomic Medicine Institute, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio 44195
                []Department of Anatomic Pathology, Cleveland Clinic, Ohio 44195
                Author notes
                [1 ]Corresponding authors: Institute for Genome Sciences, 801 W. Baltimore Street, BioPark II, 6th floor, Baltimore, MD 21201. E-mail: dserre@ ; and Institute for Genome Sciences, 801 W. Baltimore Street, BioPark II, 6th floor, Baltimore, MD 21201. E-mail: matthewvc1@

                Present address: Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21202.


                Present address: Predoctoral Training Program in Human Genetics, McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205.


                Present address: Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine, Gastrointestinal, Hepatic and Pancreaticobiliary Pathology, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainsville, FL 32610.

                Copyright © 2016 Cannon et al.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Figures: 6, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 52, Pages: 9


                hepatocytes, differentiation, liver development, epigenetics, dna methylation


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