Gatto S. et al.
Hypomorphic mutations in DNA-methyltransferase DNMT3B cause majority of the rare disorder Immunodeficiency, Centromere instability and Facial anomalies syndrome cases (ICF1). By unspecified mechanisms, mutant-DNMT3B interferes with lymphoid-specific pathways resulting in immune response defects. Interestingly, recent findings report that DNMT3B shapes intragenic CpG-methylation of highly-transcribed genes. However, how the DNMT3B-dependent epigenetic network modulates transcription and whether ICF1-specific mutations impair this process remains unknown. We performed a transcriptomic and epigenomic study in patient-derived B-cell lines to investigate the genome-scale effects of DNMT3B dysfunction. We highlighted that altered intragenic CpG-methylation impairs multiple aspects of transcriptional regulation, like alternative TSS usage, antisense transcription and exon splicing. These defects preferentially associate with changes of intragenic H3K4me3 and at lesser extent of H3K27me3 and H3K36me3. In addition, we highlighted a novel DNMT3B activity in modulating the self-regulatory circuit of sense-antisense pairs and the exon skipping during alternative splicing, through interacting with RNA molecules. Strikingly, altered transcription affects disease relevant genes, as for instance the memory-B cell marker CD27 and PTPRC genes, providing us with biological insights into the ICF1-syndrome pathogenesis. Our genome-scale approach sheds light on the mechanisms still poorly understood of the intragenic function of DNMT3B and DNA methylation in gene expression regulation.