Tacconi, Carlotta and He, Yuliang and Ducoli, Luca and Detmar, Michael
Lymphatic and blood vascular endothelial cells (ECs) share several molecular and developmental features. However, these two cell types possess distinct phenotypic signatures, reflecting their different biological functions. Despite significant advances in elucidating how the specification of lymphatic and blood vascular ECs is regulated at the transcriptional level during development, the key molecular mechanisms governing their lineage identity under physiological or pathological conditions remain poorly understood. To explore the epigenomic signatures in the maintenance of EC lineage specificity, we compared the transcriptomic landscapes, histone composition (H3K4me3 and H3K27me3) and DNA methylomes of cultured matched human primary dermal lymphatic and blood vascular ECs. Our findings reveal that blood vascular lineage genes manifest a more 'repressed' histone composition in lymphatic ECs, whereas DNA methylation at promoters is less linked to the differential transcriptomes of lymphatic versus blood vascular ECs. Meta-analyses identified two transcriptional regulators, BCL6 and MEF2C, which potentially govern endothelial lineage specificity. Notably, the blood vascular endothelial lineage markers CD34, ESAM and FLT1 and the lymphatic endothelial lineage markers PROX1, PDPN and FLT4 exhibited highly differential epigenetic profiles and responded in distinct manners to epigenetic drug treatments. The perturbation of histone and DNA methylation selectively promoted the expression of blood vascular endothelial markers in lymphatic endothelial cells, but not vice versa. Overall, our study reveals that the fine regulation of lymphatic and blood vascular endothelial transcriptomes is maintained via several epigenetic mechanisms, which are crucial to the maintenance of endothelial cell identity.