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PLoS genetics

Unlinking the methylome pattern from nucleotide sequence, revealed by large-scale in vivo genome engineering and methylome editing in medaka fish.


PMID 29267279

Abstract

The heavily methylated vertebrate genomes are punctuated by stretches of poorly methylated DNA sequences that usually mark gene regulatory regions. It is known that the methylation state of these regions confers transcriptional control over their associated genes. Given its governance on the transcriptome, cellular functions and identity, genome-wide DNA methylation pattern is tightly regulated and evidently predefined. However, how is the methylation pattern determined in vivo remains enigmatic. Based on in silico and in vitro evidence, recent studies proposed that the regional hypomethylated state is primarily determined by local DNA sequence, e.g., high CpG density and presence of specific transcription factor binding sites. Nonetheless, the dependency of DNA methylation on nucleotide sequence has not been carefully validated in vertebrates in vivo. Herein, with the use of medaka (Oryzias latipes) as a model, the sequence dependency of DNA methylation was intensively tested in vivo. Our statistical modeling confirmed the strong statistical association between nucleotide sequence pattern and methylation state in the medaka genome. However, by manipulating the methylation state of a number of genomic sequences and reintegrating them into medaka embryos, we demonstrated that artificially conferred DNA methylation states were predominantly and robustly maintained in vivo, regardless of their sequences and endogenous states. This feature was also observed in the medaka transgene that had passed across generations. Thus, despite the observed statistical association, nucleotide sequence was unable to autonomously determine its own methylation state in medaka in vivo. Our results apparently argue against the notion of the governance on the DNA methylation by nucleotide sequence, but instead suggest the involvement of other epigenetic factors in defining and maintaining the DNA methylation landscape. Further investigation in other vertebrate models in vivo will be needed for the generalization of our observations made in medaka.

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