Diagenode

Elevated 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in the Engrailed-2 (EN-2) promoter is associated with increased gene expression and decreased MeCP2 binding in autism cerebellum.


James SJ, Shpyleva S, Melnyk S, Pavliv O, Pogribny IP

Epigenetic mechanisms regulate programmed gene expression during prenatal neurogenesis and serve as a mediator between genetics and environment in postnatal life. The recent discovery of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC), with highest concentration in the brain, has added a new dimension to epigenetic regulation of neurogenesis and the development of complex behavior disorders. Here, we take a candidate gene approach to define the role 5-hmC in Engrailed-2 (EN-2) gene expression in the autism cerebellum. The EN-2 homeobox transcription factor, previously implicated in autism, is essential for normal cerebellar patterning and development. We previously reported EN-2 overexpression associated with promoter DNA hypermethylation in the autism cerebellum but because traditional DNA methylation methodology cannot distinguish 5-methylcytosine (5-mC) from 5-hmC, we now extend our investigation by quantifying global and gene-specific 5-mC and 5-hmC. Globally, 5-hmC was significantly increased in the autism cerebellum and accompanied by increases in the expression of de novo methyltransferases DNMT3A and DNMT3B, ten-eleven translocase genes TET1 and TET3, and in 8-oxo-deoxyguanosine (8-oxo-dG) content, a marker of oxidative DNA damage. Within the EN-2 promoter, there was a significant positive correlation between 5-hmC content and EN-2 gene expression. Based on reports of reduced MeCP2 affinity for 5-hmC, MeCP2 binding studies in the EN-2 promoter revealed a significant decrease in repressive MeCP2 binding that may contribute to the aberrant overexpression of EN-2. Because normal cerebellar development depends on perinatal EN-2 downregulation, the sustained postnatal overexpression suggests that a critical window of cerebellar development may have been missed in some individuals with autism with downstream developmental consequences. Epigenetic regulation of the programmed on-off switches in gene expression that occur at birth and during early brain development warrants further investigation.

Share this article

Published
October, 2014

Source

Events

 See all events

Twitter feed

News

 See all news