Genomic imprinting is the epigenetic process that results in monoallelic expression of genes depending on parental origin. These genes are known to be critical for placental development and fetal growth in mammals. Aberrant epigenetic profiles at imprinted loci, such as DNA methylation defects, are surprisingly rare in pregnancies with compromised fetal growth, while variations in transcriptional output from the expressed alleles of imprinted genes are more commonly reported in pregnancies complicated with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). To determine if PLAGL1 and HYMAI, two imprinted transcripts deregulated in Transient Neonatal Diabetes Mellitus, are involved in non-syndromic IUGR we compared the expression and DNA methylation levels in a large cohort of placental biopsies from IUGR and uneventful pregnancies. This revealed that despite appropriate maternal methylation at the shared PLAGL1/HYMAI promoter, there was a loss of correlation between PLAGL1 and HYMAI expression in IUGR. This incongruity was due to higher HYMAI expression in IUGR gestations, coupled with PLAGL1 down-regulation in placentas from IUGR girls, but not boys. The PLAGL1 protein is a zinc-finger transcription factor that has been shown to be a master coordinator of a genetic growth network in mice. We observe PLAGL1 binding to the H19/IGF2 shared enhancers in placentae, with significant correlations between PLAGL1 levels with H19 and IGF2 expression levels. In addition, PLAGL1 binding and expression also correlate with expression levels of metabolic regulator genes SLC2A4, TCF4 and PPAR?1. Our results strongly suggest that fetal growth can be influenced by altered expression of the PLAGL1 gene network in human placenta.
Genomic imprinting is the epigenetic marking of genes that results in parent-of-origin monoallelic expression. Most imprinted domains are associated with differentially DNA methylated regions (DMRs) that originate in the gametes, and are maintained in somatic tissues after fertilization. This allelic methylation profile is associated with a plethora of histone tail modifications that orchestrates higher order chromatin interactions. The mouse chromosome 15 imprinted cluster contains multiple brain-specific maternally expressed transcripts including Ago2, Chrac1, Trappc9 and Kcnk9 and a paternally expressed gene, Peg13. The promoter of Peg13 is methylated on the maternal allele and is the sole DMR within the locus. To determine the extent of imprinting within the human orthologous region on chromosome 8q24, a region associated with autosomal recessive intellectual disability, Birk-Barel mental retardation and dysmorphism syndrome, we have undertaken a systematic analysis of allelic expression and DNA methylation of genes mapping within an approximately 2 Mb region around TRAPPC9.
Wilms tumor 1 (WT1) is over-expressed in numerous cancers with respect to normal cells, and has either a tumor suppressor or oncogenic role depending on cellular context. This gene is associated with numerous alternatively spliced transcripts, which initiate from two different unique first exons within the WT1 and the alternative (A)WT1 promoter intervals. Within the hematological system, WT1 expression is restricted to CD34+/CD38- cells and is undetectable after differentiation. Detectable expression of this gene is an excellent marker for minimal residual disease in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but the underlying epigenetic alterations are unknown.
Finding genes involved in complex behavioral outcomes, and understanding the pathways by which they confer risk, is a challenging task, necessitating large samples that are phenotypically well characterized across time. We describe an effort to create a university-wide research project aimed at understanding how genes and environments impact alcohol use and related substance use and mental health outcomes across time in college students. Nearly 70% of the incoming freshman class (N = 2715) completed on-line surveys, with 80% of the students from the fall completing spring follow-ups. 98% of eligible participants also gave DNA. The participants closely approximated the university population in terms of gender and racial/ethnic composition. Here we provide initial results on alcohol use outcomes from the first wave of the sample, as well as associated predictor variables. We discuss the potential for this kind of research to advance our understanding of genetic and environment influences on substance use and mental health outcomes.
Paternal duplications of chromosome 6q24, a region that contains the imprinted PLAGL1 and HYMAI transcripts, are associated with transient neonatal diabetes mellitus. A common feature of imprinted genes is that they tend to cluster together, presumably as a result of sharing common cis-acting regulatory elements. To determine the extent of this imprinted cluster in human and mouse, we have undertaken a systematic analysis of allelic expression and DNA methylation of the genes mapping within an ?1.4-Mb region flanking PLAGL1/Plagl1. We confirm that all nine neighbouring genes are biallelically expressed in both species. In human we identify two novel paternally expressed PLAGL1 coding transcripts that originate from unique promoter regions. Chromatin immunoprecipitation for CTCF and the cohesin subunits RAD21 and SMC3 reveals evolutionarily conserved binding sites within unmethylated regions ?5 kb downstream of the PLAGL1 differentially methylated region and within the PLAGL1 3 untranslated region (UTR). Higher-order chromatin looping occurs between these regions in both expressing and non-expressing tissues, forming a non-allelic chromatin loop around the PLAGL1/Plagl1 gene. In placenta and brain tissues, we identify an additional interaction between the PLAGL1 P3/P4 promoters and the unmethylated element downstream of the PLAGL1 differentially methylated region that we propose facilitates imprinted expression of these alternative isoforms.
Imprinted retrotransposed genes share a common genomic organization including a promoter-associated differentially methylated region (DMR) and a position within the intron of a multi-exonic host gene. In the mouse, at least one transcript of the host gene is also subject to genomic imprinting. Human retrogene orthologues are imprinted and we reveal that human host genes are not imprinted. This coincides with genomic rearrangements that occurred during primate evolution, which increase the separation between the retrogene DMRs and the host genes. To address the mechanisms governing imprinted retrogene expression, histone modifications were assayed at the DMRs. For the mouse retrogenes, the active mark H3K4me2 was associated with the unmethylated paternal allele, while the methylated maternal allele was enriched in repressive marks including H3K9me3 and H4K20me3. Two human retrogenes showed monoallelic enrichment of active, but not of repressive marks suggesting a partial uncoupling of the relationship between DNA methylation and repressive histone methylation, possibly due to the smaller size and lower CpG density of these DMRs. Finally, we show that the genes immediately flanking the host genes in mouse and human are biallelically expressed in a range of tissues, suggesting that these loci are distinct from large imprinted clusters.
Genomic imprinting is a complex epigenetic mechanism of transcriptional control that utilizes DNA methylation and histone modifications to bring about parent-of-origin specific monoallelic expression in mammals. Genes subject to imprinting are often organised in clusters associated with large non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), some of which have cis-regulatory functions. Here we have undertaken a detailed allelic expression analysis of an imprinted domain on mouse proximal chromosome 10 comprising the paternally expressed Plagl1 gene. We identified three novel Plagl1 transcripts, only one of which contains protein-coding exons. In addition, we characterised two unspliced ncRNAs, Hymai, the mouse orthologue of HYMAI, and Plagl1it (Plagl1 intronic transcript), a transcript located in intron 5 of Plagl1. Imprinted expression of these novel ncRNAs requires DNMT3L-mediated maternal DNA methylation, which is also indispensable for establishing the correct chromatin profile at the Plagl1 DMR. Significantly, the two ncRNAs are retained in the nucleus, consistent with a potential regulatory function at the imprinted domain. Analysis with catRAPID, a protein-ncRNA association prediction algorithm, suggests that Hymai and Plagl1it RNAs both have potentially high affinity for Trithorax chromatin regulators. The two ncRNAs could therefore help to protect the paternal allele from DNA methylation by attracting Trithorax proteins that mediate H3 lysine-4 methylation.
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