Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 18

DNA Methylation Related Abstracts

18 DNA Methylation Changes Caused by Lawsone

Authors: Zuzana Poborilova, Anna B. Ohlsson, Torkel Berglund, Anna Vildova, Petr Babula


Lawsone is a pigment that occurs naturally in plants. It has been used as a skin and hair dye for a long time. Moreover, its different biological activities have been reported. The present study focused on the effect of lawsone on a plant cell model represented by tobacco BY-2 cell suspension culture, which is used as a model comparable with the HeLa cells. It has been shown that lawsone inhibits the cell growth in the concentration-dependent manner. In addition, changes in DNA methylation level have been determined. We observed decreasing level of DNA methylation in the presence of increasing concentrations of lawsone. These results were accompanied with overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Since epigenetic modifications can be caused by different stress factors, there could be a connection between the changes in the level of DNA methylation and ROS production caused by lawsone.

Keywords: DNA Methylation, lawsone, naphthoquinone, reactive oxygen species

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17 Analysis of DNA from Fired Cartridge Casings

Authors: S. Mawlood, L. Denanny, N. Watson, B. Pickard


DNA analysis has been widely accepted as providing valuable evidence concerning the identity of the source of biological traces. Our work has showed that DNA samples can survive on cartridges even after firing. The study also raised the possibility of determining other information such as the age of the donor. Such information may be invaluable in certain cases where spent cartridges from automatic weapons are left behind at the scene of a crime. In spite of the nature of touch evidence and exposure to high chamber temperatures during shooting, we were still capable to retrieve enough DNA for profile typing. In order to estimate age of contributor, DNA methylation levels were analyzed using EpiTect system for retrieved DNA. However, results were not conclusive, due to low amount of input DNA.

Keywords: DNA Methylation, DNA profile, fired cartridge, touch sample

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16 Identification of Body Fluid at the Crime Scene by DNA Methylation Markers for Use in Forensic Science

Authors: Shirin jalili, Hadi Shirzad, Mahasti Modarresi, Samaneh Nabavi, Somayeh Khanjani


Identifying the source tissue of biological material found at crime scenes can be very informative in a number of cases. Despite their usefulness, current visual, catalytic, enzymatic, and immunologic tests for presumptive and confirmatory tissue identification are applicable only to a subset of samples, might suffer limitations such as low specificity, lack of sensitivity, and are substantially impacted by environmental insults. In addition their results are operator-dependent. Recently the possibility of discriminating body fluids using mRNA expression differences in tissues has been described but lack of long term stability of that Molecule and the need to normalize samples for each individual are limiting factors. The use of DNA should solve these issues because of its long term stability and specificity to each body fluid. Cells in the human body have a unique epigenome, which includes differences in DNA methylation in the promoter of genes. DNA methylation, which occurs at the 5′-position of the cytosine in CpG dinucleotides, has great potential for forensic identification of body fluids, because tissue-specific patterns of DNA methylation have been demonstrated, and DNA is less prone to degradation than proteins or RNA. Previous studies have reported several body fluid-specific DNA methylation markers.The presence or absence of a methyl group on the 5’ carbon of the cytosine pyridine ring in CpG dinucleotide regions called ‘CpG islands’ dictates whether the gene is expressed or silenced in the particular body fluid. Were described methylation patterns at tissue specific differentially methylated regions (tDMRs) to be stable and specific, making them excellent markers for tissue identification. The results demonstrate that methylation-based tissue identification is more than a proof-of-concept. The methodology holds promise as another viable forensic DNA analysis tool for characterization of biological materials.

Keywords: Forensic Science, DNA Methylation, epigenome, tDMRs

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15 Identification of a Panel of Epigenetic Biomarkers for Early Detection of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Blood of Individuals with Liver Cirrhosis

Authors: Katarzyna Lubecka, Kirsty Flower, Megan Beetch, Lucinda Kurzava, Hannah Buvala, Samer Gawrieh, Suthat Liangpunsakul, Tracy Gonzalez, George McCabe, Naga Chalasani, James M. Flanagan, Barbara Stefanska


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most prevalent type of primary liver cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Late onset of clinical symptoms in HCC results in late diagnosis and poor disease outcome. Approximately 85% of individuals with HCC have underlying liver cirrhosis. However, not all cirrhotic patients develop cancer. Reliable early detection biomarkers that can distinguish cirrhotic patients who will develop cancer from those who will not are urgently needed and could increase the cure rate from 5% to 80%. We used Illumina-450K microarray to test whether blood DNA, an easily accessible source of DNA, bear site-specific changes in DNA methylation in response to HCC before diagnosis with conventional tools (pre-diagnostic). Top 11 differentially methylated sites were selected for validation by pyrosequencing. The diagnostic potential of the 11 pyrosequenced probes was tested in blood samples from a prospective cohort of cirrhotic patients. We identified 971 differentially methylated CpG sites in pre-diagnostic HCC cases as compared with healthy controls (P < 0.05, paired Wilcoxon test, ICC ≥ 0.5). Nearly 76% of differentially methylated CpG sites showed lower levels of methylation in cases vs. controls (P = 2.973E-11, Wilcoxon test). Classification of the CpG sites according to their location relative to CpG islands and transcription start site revealed that those hypomethylated loci are located in regulatory regions important for gene transcription such as CpG island shores, promoters, and 5’UTR at higher frequency than hypermethylated sites. Among 735 CpG sites hypomethylated in cases vs. controls, 482 sites were assigned to gene coding regions whereas 236 hypermethylated sites corresponded to 160 genes. Bioinformatics analysis using GO, KEGG and DAVID knowledgebase indicate that differentially methylated CpG sites are located in genes associated with functions that are essential for gene transcription, cell adhesion, cell migration, and regulation of signal transduction pathways. Taking into account the magnitude of the difference, statistical significance, location, and consistency across the majority of matched pairs case-control, we selected 11 CpG loci corresponding to 10 genes for further validation by pyrosequencing. We established that methylation of CpG sites within 5 out of those 10 genes distinguish cirrhotic patients who subsequently developed HCC from those who stayed cancer free (cirrhotic controls), demonstrating potential as biomarkers of early detection in populations at risk. The best predictive value was detected for CpGs located within BARD1 (AUC=0.70, asymptotic significance ˂0.01). Using an additive logistic regression model, we further showed that 9 CpG loci within those 5 genes, that were covered in pyrosequenced probes, constitute a panel with high diagnostic accuracy (AUC=0.887; 95% CI:0.80-0.98). The panel was able to distinguish pre-diagnostic cases from cirrhotic controls free of cancer with 88% sensitivity at 70% specificity. Using blood as a minimally invasive material and pyrosequencing as a straightforward quantitative method, the established biomarker panel has high potential to be developed into a routine clinical test after validation in larger cohorts. This study was supported by Showalter Trust, American Cancer Society (IRG#14-190-56), and Purdue Center for Cancer Research (P30 CA023168) granted to BS.

Keywords: Biomarker, Early Detection, Hepatocellular Carcinoma, DNA Methylation

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14 Effect of Leptin Gene Methylation on Colorectal Cancer Chemoresistance

Authors: Wissem Abdaoui, Nizar M. Mhaidat, Ilhem Mokhtari, Adel Gouri


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common tumors all over the world. Obesity, considered a risk factor of CRC, is characterized by a high level of secreted cytokines from adipose tissue. Among these inflammatory molecules, leptin is considered the key mediator for CRC cancer development and progression by activation of mitogenic and anti apoptotic signaling pathways. Gene expression can be significantly modulated by alterations in DNA methylation patterns. The aim of this study is to investigate the impact of leptin gene methylation on CRC prognosis and sensitivity to chemotherapy. The study involved 70 CRC tissue samples collected from King Abdullah University Hospital (KAUH) from which only 53 was analyzed because of bisulfate fragmentation and low yield of DNA extracted from FFPE tissues. A total of 22 blood samples were collected from healthy volunteers and enrolled as a control group. Leptin promoter methylation was analyzed by methylation specific PCR after bisulfate conversion. Results revealed that the incidence of leptin gene methylation was significantly higher in CRC patients in comparison to that of controls (P < 0.05). The correlation between patient’s demographics and leptin gene methylation was not significant (P < 0.05). However, a significant correlation between leptin gene methylation status and early cancer stages (I, II and III) was found in male but not in female (p < 0.05). Moreover, a significant correlation was found between leptin promoter methylation and early tumor localization T1-2 (p < 0.05). The correlation between epigenetic regulation of leptin and chemosensitivity was not significant. Taken together, these results suggest the possibility to use leptin gene methylation as a biomarker for the evaluation of CRC prognosis and metastasis.

Keywords: Obesity, Chemoresistance, colorectal cancer, DNA Methylation, Disease Prognosis, leptin, bisulfate conversion

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13 Solving Crimes through DNA Methylation Analysis

Authors: Ajay Kumar Rana


Predicting human behaviour, discerning monozygotic twins or left over remnant tissues/fluids of a single human source remains a big challenge in forensic science. Recent advances in the field of DNA methylations which are broadly chemical hallmarks in response to environmental factors can certainly help to identify and discriminate various single-source DNA samples collected from the crime scenes. In this review, cytosine methylation of DNA has been methodologically discussed with its broad applications in many challenging forensic issues like body fluid identification, race/ethnicity identification, monozygotic twins dilemma, addiction or behavioural prediction, age prediction, or even authenticity of the human DNA. With the advent of next-generation sequencing techniques, blooming of DNA methylation datasets and together with standard molecular protocols, the prospect of investigating and solving the above issues and extracting the exact nature of the truth for reconstructing the crime scene events would be undoubtedly helpful in defending and solving the critical crime cases.

Keywords: Forensics, Human identification, DNA Methylation, differentially methylated regions

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12 Methylation Analysis of PHF20L1 and DACT2 Gene Promoters in Women with Breast Cancer

Authors: Marta E. Hernandez-Caballero, Veronica Borgonio-Cuadra, Antonio Miranda-Duarte, Xochitl Rojas-Toledo, Normand Garcia-Hernandez, Maura Cardenas-Garcia, Teresa Abad-Camacho


Breast cancer (BC) is the most common tumor in women over the world. DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification critical in CpG sites, aberrant methylation of CpG islands in promoters is a hallmark of cancer. So, gene expression can be regulated by alterations in DNA methylation. In cell lines DACT2 gene reduces the growth and migration of tumor cells by its participation in the suppression of TGFb/SMAD2/3. PHF20L1 is involved in histone acetylation therefore, it regulates transcription. Our aim was to analyze the methylation status of the DACT2 and PHF20L1 promoter regions in tumoral and healthy mammary tissue from women with BC in different progression states. The study included 77 patients from Centro Medico Nacional La Raza in Mexico City. After identifying a CpG island in DACT2 and PHF20L1 promoters, DNA methylation status was analyzed through sodium bisulfite with subsequent amplification using methylation-specific PCR. Results revealed no changes in methylation status of PHF20L1 and cancer stages (II y III) or in comparison to healthy tissues, it was demethylated. DACT2 promoter methylation was no significant between tumoral stages (II, P = 0.37; III, P = 0.17) or with healthy tissue. Previous data reported DACT2 methylated in nasopharyngeal carcinoma but in this study promoter methylation was not observed. PHF20L1 protein contains N-terminal Tudor and C-terminal plant homeodomain domains, it has been suggested that can stabilize DNMT1 regulating DNA methylation, therefore, was associated with poor prognostic in BC. We found no evidence of methylation in patients and controls in PHF20L1 promoter, so its association with BC may have no direct relation with promoter methylation. More studies including other methylation sites in these genes in BC are necessary.

Keywords: Breast Cancer, DNA Methylation, bisulfite conversion, DACT2, PHF20L1, tumoral status

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11 Promoter Methylation of RASSF1A and MGMT Genes in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Authors: Vitor Rafael Regiani, Carlos Henrique Viesi Do Nascimento Filho, Patricia Matos Biselli-Chicote, Claudia Aparecida Rainho, Luiz Sergio Raposo, José Victor Maniglia, Eny Maria Goloni-Bertollo, Erika Cristina Pavarino


Promoter hypermethylation of tumor-related genes has been associated with prognosis in early-stage head-and-neck cancers, providing strong evidence that these hypermethylated genes are valuable biomarkers for prognostic evaluation. Hence, we selected the MGMT and RASSF1A genes to examine the methylation status in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) samples matched with non-tumor tissues (tumor-surrounding tissues or peripheral blood samples). DNA methylation analysis was based on Methylation-Sensitive High Resolution Melting, and the methylation status was correlated with clinic-pathological characteristics of the patients. RASSF1A and MGMT promoter methylation was detected in 43.24% (16/37) and in 44.44% (16/36) of the tumors, respectively. RASSF1A and MGMT methylation was significantly more frequent in tumor tissue than non-tumor tissues, as well as, simultaneous methylation of RASSF1A and MGMT also was higher in tumor tissue than non-tumor tissues. In relation to anatomic site, larynx cancer presented significant methylation of MGMT gene compared to tumor-surrounding tissue. The frequency of RASSF1A and MGMT promoter methylated was higher in tumor tissues in relation to peripheral blood from the same patient. No association was found between methylation and the variables analyzed, including gender, age, smoking or alcohol drinking habits. Clinic-pathological characteristics also showed no association in the presence of methylation. The Kaplan–Meier's method showed no association of methylation and both disease-free and overall survival. In conclusion, the presence of epigenetic abnormalities in normal-appearing tissue corroborates the hypothesis of the ‘field cancerization', or it can reflect preneoplastic and/or preinvasive. Moreover, MGMT methylation may serve as an important laryngeal cancer biomarker because it showed significant difference between laryngeal cancer and surrounding tumor tissues.

Keywords: DNA Methylation, head and neck cancer, MGMT promoter methylation, RASSF1A promoter methylation

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10 Effects of Exercise on Klotho Expression and Klotho DNA Methylation in Obese Mice

Authors: Yao Huang, Hongjie Yu, Fangrong Xu, Longbiao Cai, Qiqiang He


The Klotho gene has been found to be involved in cardiovascular health, and epigenetic mechanism has risen as good candidates to understand the role of lifestyle factors in obesity. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of exercise intervention on the expression and DNA methylation of Klotho gene in high-fat diet induced obese mice. C57BL/6 male mice were fed a normal diet (ND) or a high-fat diet (HFD) for 12 weeks. HFD induced obese mice were divided into secondary group (SED) and exercise group (EX) randomly. The treadmill exercise was performed in EX group for 8 weeks. The expression and DNA methylation of Klotho were evaluated by Western blot, RT-PCR, and Methylation-specific PCR. Results indicated that Klotho protein and mRNA expression were significantly lower in the SED group than those in the ND and EX groups (P<0.01), whereas no significant difference, was found between ND group and EX group (P>0.05). Furthermore, mice in the ND group and SED group showed significantly lower levels of completely methylated Klotho DNA in ND group (0%) and SED group (50%) compared with the EX group (90%), and unmethylated Klotho DNA level in ND group (80%) was significantly higher than those in the SED (0%) and EX (0%) groups. These results suggested that exercise leads to increased Klotho expression and reduced Klotho DNA methylation level in HFD induced obese mice.

Keywords: DNA Methylation, exercise intervention, klotho, obese mice

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9 Changing the Landscape of Fungal Genomics: New Trends

Authors: Igor V. Grigoriev


Understanding of biological processes encoded in fungi is instrumental in addressing future food, feed, and energy demands of the growing human population. Genomics is a powerful and quickly evolving tool to understand these processes. The Fungal Genomics Program of the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) partners with researchers around the world to explore fungi in several large scale genomics projects, changing the fungal genomics landscape. The key trends of these changes include: (i) rapidly increasing scale of sequencing and analysis, (ii) developing approaches to go beyond culturable fungi and explore fungal ‘dark matter,’ or unculturables, and (iii) functional genomics and multi-omics data integration. Power of comparative genomics has been recently demonstrated in several JGI projects targeting mycorrhizae, plant pathogens, wood decay fungi, and sugar fermenting yeasts. The largest JGI project ‘1000 Fungal Genomes’ aims at exploring the diversity across the Fungal Tree of Life in order to better understand fungal evolution and to build a catalogue of genes, enzymes, and pathways for biotechnological applications. At this point, at least 65% of over 700 known families have one or more reference genomes sequenced, enabling metagenomics studies of microbial communities and their interactions with plants. For many of the remaining families no representative species are available from culture collections. To sequence genomes of unculturable fungi two approaches have been developed: (a) sequencing DNA from fruiting bodies of ‘macro’ and (b) single cell genomics using fungal spores. The latter has been tested using zoospores from the early diverging fungi and resulted in several near-complete genomes from underexplored branches of the Fungal Tree, including the first genomes of Zoopagomycotina. Genome sequence serves as a reference for transcriptomics studies, the first step towards functional genomics. In the JGI fungal mini-ENCODE project transcriptomes of the model fungus Neurospora crassa grown on a spectrum of carbon sources have been collected to build regulatory gene networks. Epigenomics is another tool to understand gene regulation and recently introduced single molecule sequencing platforms not only provide better genome assemblies but can also detect DNA modifications. For example, 6mC methylome was surveyed across many diverse fungi and the highest among Eukaryota levels of 6mC methylation has been reported. Finally, data production at such scale requires data integration to enable efficient data analysis. Over 700 fungal genomes and other -omes have been integrated in JGI MycoCosm portal and equipped with comparative genomics tools to enable researchers addressing a broad spectrum of biological questions and applications for bioenergy and biotechnology.

Keywords: Comparative Genomics, Fungal genomics, DNA Methylation, single cell genomics

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8 Epigenetic Drugs for Major Depressive Disorder: A Critical Appraisal of Available Studies

Authors: Aniket Kumar, Jacob Peedicayil


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common and important psychiatric disorder. Several clinical features of MDD suggest an epigenetic basis for its pathogenesis. Since epigenetics (heritable changes in gene expression not involving changes in DNA sequence) may underlie the pathogenesis of MDD, epigenetic drugs such as DNA methyltransferase inhibitors (DNMTi) and histone deactylase inhibitors (HDACi) may be useful for treating MDD. The available literature indexed in Pubmed on preclinical drug trials of epigenetic drugs for the treatment of MDD was investigated. The search terms we used were ‘depression’ or ‘depressive’ and ‘HDACi’ or ‘DNMTi’. Among epigenetic drugs, it was found that there were 3 preclinical trials using HDACi and 3 using DNMTi for the treatment of MDD. All the trials were conducted on rodents (mice or rats). The animal models of depression that were used were: learned helplessness-induced animal model, forced swim test, open field test, and the tail suspension test. One study used a genetic rat model of depression (the Flinders Sensitive Line). The HDACi that were tested were: sodium butyrate, compound 60 (Cpd-60), and valproic acid. The DNMTi that were tested were: 5-azacytidine and decitabine. Among the three preclinical trials using HDACi, all showed an antidepressant effect in animal models of depression. Among the 3 preclinical trials using DNMTi also, all showed an antidepressant effect in animal models of depression. Thus, epigenetic drugs, namely, HDACi and DNMTi, may prove to be useful in the treatment of MDD and merit further investigation for the treatment of this disorder.

Keywords: Drug discovery, Epigenetics, Major Depressive Disorder, DNA Methylation

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7 Study on Developmental and Pathogenesis Related Genes Expression Deregulation in Brassica compestris Infected with 16Sr-IX Associated Phytoplasma

Authors: Samina Jam Nazeer Ahmad, Samia Yasin, Ijaz Ahmad, Muhammad Tahir, Jam Nazeer Ahmad


Phytoplasmas are phloem-inhibited plant pathogenic bacteria that are transferred by insect vectors. Among biotic factors, Phytoplasma infection induces abnormality influencing the physiology as well as morphology of plants. In 16Sr-IX group phytoplasma-infected brassica compestris, flower abnormalities have been associated with changes in the expression of floral development genes. To determine whether methylation was involved in down-regulation of flower development, the process of DNA methylation and Demethylation was investigated as a possible mechanism for regulation of floral gene expression in phytoplasma infected Brassica transmitted by Orosious orientalis vector by using RT-PCR, MSRE-PCR, Southern blotting, Bisulfite Sequencing, etc. Transcriptional expression of methylated genes was found to be globally down-regulated in plants infected with phytoplasma, but not severely in those infested by insect vectors and variation in expression was found in genes involved in methylation. These results also showed that genes particularly orthologous to Arabidopsis APETALA3 involved in petal formation and flower development was down-regulated severely in phytoplasma-infected brassica and with the fact that phytoplasma and insect induce variation in developmental gene expression. The DNA methylation status of flower developmental gene in phytoplasma infected plants with 5-azacytidine restored gene expression strongly suggesting that DNA methylation was involved in down-regulation of floral development genes in phytoplasma infected brassica.

Keywords: phytoplasma, DNA Methylation, genes expression, flower development

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6 Internal Mercury Exposure Levels Correlated to DNA Methylation of Imprinting Gene H19 in Human Sperm of Reproductive-Aged Man

Authors: Zhaoxu Lu, Yufeng Ma, Linying Gao, Li Wang, Mei Qiang


Mercury (Hg) is a well-recognized environmental pollutant known by its toxicity of development and neurotoxicity, which may result in adverse health outcomes. However, the mechanisms underlying the teratogenic effects of Hg are not well understood. Imprinting genes are emerging regulators for fetal development subject to environmental pollutants impacts. In this study, we examined the association between paternal preconception Hg exposures and the alteration of DNA methylation of imprinting genes in human sperm DNA. A total of 618 men aged from 22 to 59 was recruited from the Reproductive Medicine Clinic of Maternal and Child Care Service Center and the Urologic Surgery Clinic of Shanxi Academy of Medical Sciences during April 2015 and March 2016. Demographic information was collected using questionnaires. Urinary Hg concentrations were measured using a fully-automatic double-channel hydride generation atomic fluorescence spectrometer. And methylation status in the DMRs of imprinting genes H19, Meg3 and Peg3 of sperm DNA were examined by bisulfite pyrosequencing in 243 participants. Spearman’s rank and multivariate regression analysis were used for correlation analysis between sperm DNA methylation status of imprinting genes and urinary Hg levels. The median concentration of Hg for participants overall was 9.09μg/l (IQR: 5.54 - 12.52μg/l; range = 0 - 71.35μg/l); no significant difference was found in median concentrations of Hg among various demographic groups (p > 0.05). The proportion of samples that a beyond intoxication criterion (10μg/l) for urinary Hg was 42.6%. Spearman’s rank correlation analysis indicates a negative correlation between urinary Hg concentrations and average DNA methylation levels in the DMRs of imprinted genes H19 (rs=﹣0.330, p = 0.000). However, there was no such a correlation found in genes of Peg3 and Meg3. Further, we analyzed of correlation between methylation level at each CpG site of H19 and Hg level, the results showed that three out of 7 CpG sites on H19 DMR, namely CpG2 (rs =﹣0.138, p = 0.031), CpG4 (rs =﹣0.369, p = 0.000) and CpG6 (rs=﹣0.228, p = 0.000), demonstrated a significant negative correlation between methylation levels and the levels of urinary Hg. After adjusting age, smoking, drinking, intake of aquatic products and education by multivariate regression analysis, the results have shown a similar correlation. In summary, mercury nonoccupational environmental exposure in reproductive-aged men associated with altered DNA methylation outcomes at DMR of imprinting gene H19 in sperm, implicating the susceptibility of the developing sperm for environmental insults.

Keywords: Epigenetics, Mercury, DNA Methylation, sperm, genomic imprinting gene, transgenerational effects

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5 Effects of Cold Treatments on Methylation Profiles and Reproduction Mode of Diploid and Tetraploid Plants of Ranunculus kuepferi (Ranunculaceae)

Authors: E. Syngelaki, C. C. F. Schinkel, S. Klatt, E. Hörandl


Environmental influence can alter the conditions for plant development and can trigger changes in epigenetic variation. Thus, the exposure to abiotic environmental stress can lead to different DNA methylation profiles and may have evolutionary consequences for adaptation. Epigenetic control mechanisms may further influence mode of reproduction. The alpine species R. kuepferi has diploid and tetraploid cytotypes, that are mostly sexual and facultative apomicts, respectively. Hence, it is a suitable model system for studying the correlations of mode of reproduction, ploidy, and environmental stress. Diploid and tetraploid individuals were placed in two climate chambers and treated with low (+7°C day/+2°C night, -1°C cold shocks for three nights per week) and warm (control) temperatures (+15°C day/+10°C night). Subsequently, methylation sensitive-Amplified Fragment-Length Polymorphism (AFPL) markers were used to screen genome-wide methylation alterations triggered by stress treatments. The dataset was analyzed for four groups regarding treatment (cold/warm) and ploidy level (diploid/tetraploid), and also separately for full methylated, hemi-methylated and unmethylated sites. Patterns of epigenetic variation suggested that diploids differed significantly in their profiles from tetraploids independent from treatment, while treatments did not differ significantly within cytotypes. Furthermore, diploids are more differentiated than the tetraploids in overall methylation profiles of both treatments. This observation is in accordance with the increased frequency of apomictic seed formation in diploids and maintenance of facultative apomixis in tetraploids during the experiment. Global analysis of molecular variance showed higher epigenetic variation within groups than among them, while locus-by-locus analysis of molecular variance showed a high number (54.7%) of significantly differentiated un-methylated loci. To summarise, epigenetic variation seems to depend on ploidy level, and in diploids may be correlated to changes in mode of reproduction. However, further studies are needed to elucidate the mechanism and possible functional significance of these correlations.

Keywords: DNA Methylation, Cold Stress, apomixis, Ranunculus kuepferi

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4 Transcriptomic Analysis of Acanthamoeba castellanii Virulence Alteration by Epigenetic DNA Methylation

Authors: Yi-Hao Wong, Li-Li Chan, Chee-Onn Leong, Stephen Ambu, Joon-Wah Mak, Priyasashi Sahu


Background: Acanthamoeba is a genus of amoebae which lives as a free-living in nature or as a human pathogen that causes severe brain and eye infections. Virulence potential of Acanthamoeba is not constant and can change with growth conditions. DNA methylation, an epigenetic process which adds methyl groups to DNA, is used by eukaryotic cells, including several human parasites to control their gene expression. We used qPCR, siRNA gene silencing, and RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to study DNA-methyltransferase gene family (DNMT) in order to indicate the possibility of its involvement in programming Acanthamoeba virulence potential. Methods: A virulence-attenuated Acanthamoeba isolate (designation: ATCC; original isolate: ATCC 50492) was subjected to mouse passages to restore its pathogenicity; a virulence-reactivated isolate (designation: AC/5) was generated. Several established factors associated with Acanthamoeba virulence phenotype were examined to confirm the succession of reactivation process. Differential gene expression of DNMT between ATCC and AC/5 isolates was performed by qPCR. Silencing on DNMT gene expression in AC/5 isolate was achieved by siRNA duplex. Total RNAs extracted from ATCC, AC/5, and siRNA-treated (designation: si-146) were subjected to RNA-Seq for comparative transcriptomic analysis in order to identify the genome-wide effect of DNMT in regulating Acanthamoeba gene expression. qPCR was performed to validate the RNA-Seq results. Results: Physiological and cytophatic assays demonstrated an increased in virulence potential of AC/5 isolate after mouse passages. DNMT gene expression was significantly higher in AC/5 compared to ATCC isolate (p ≤ 0.01) by qPCR. si-146 duplex reduced DNMT gene expression in AC/5 isolate by 30%. Comparative transcriptome analysis identified the differentially expressed genes, with 3768 genes in AC/5 vs ATCC isolate; 2102 genes in si-146 vs AC/5 isolate and 3422 genes in si-146 vs ATCC isolate, respectively (fold-change of ≥ 2 or ≤ 0.5, p-value adjusted (padj) < 0.05). Of these, 840 and 1262 genes were upregulated and downregulated, respectively, in si-146 vs AC/5 isolate. Eukaryotic orthologous group (KOG) assignments revealed a higher percentage of downregulated gene expression in si-146 compared to AC/5 isolate, were related to posttranslational modification, signal transduction and energy production. Gene Ontology (GO) terms for those downregulated genes shown were associated with transport activity, oxidation-reduction process, and metabolic process. Among these downregulated genes were putative genes encoded for heat shock proteins, transporters, ubiquitin-related proteins, proteins for vesicular trafficking (small GTPases), and oxidoreductases. Functional analysis of similar predicted proteins had been described in other parasitic protozoa for their survival and pathogenicity. Decreased expression of these genes in si146-treated isolate may account in part for Acanthamoeba reduced pathogenicity. qPCR on 6 selected genes upregulated in AC/5 compared to ATCC isolate corroborated the RNA sequencing findings, indicating a good concordance between these two analyses. Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this study represents the first genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation and its effects on gene expression in Acanthamoeba spp. The present data indicate that DNA methylation has substantial effect on global gene expression, allowing further dissection of the genome-wide effects of DNA-methyltransferase gene in regulating Acanthamoeba pathogenicity.

Keywords: DNA Methylation, RNA Sequencing, virulence, Acanthamoeba

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3 The Transcriptional Regulation of Human LRWD1 through DNA Methylation

Authors: Yen-Ni Teng, Hsing-Yi Chen, Hsien-An Pan, Yung-Ming Lin, Hany A. Omar, Jui-Hsiang Hung


Leucine-rich repeats and WD repeat domain containing 1 (LRWD1) is highly expressed in the testes of healthy males. On the other hand, LRWD1 is significantly down-regulated in the testicular tissues of patients with severe spermatogenic defects. In our study, the downregulation of LRWD1 expression by shRNA caused a significant reduction of cell growth and mitosis and a noteworthy increase in the cell microtubule atrophy rate. Here, we used EMBOSS CpG plot analysis to explore the promoter region of LRWD1 gene. We found that CpG islands are located between positions -253 to +5 nucleotides upstream from the LRWD1 transcription start site. Luciferase reporter assay revealed that the hypermethylation of the LRWD1 promoter reduced the transcription activity in cells. In addition, quantitative methylation-specific PCR and immunostaining showed that the methylation inhibitor, 5-Aza-2'-deoxycytidine, increased LRWD1 promoter activity, LRWD1 mRNA, protein expression and cell viability. Whereas, the methylation activator, S-adenosylmethionine, caused opposite effects. The overexpression of p53 and Nrf2 in NT2/D1 cells increased LRWD1 promoter activity while 5-fluorodeoxyuridine decreased it. In conclusion, this study highlights evidence that the methylation status of LRWD1 promoter is associated with LRWD1 expression. Since the expression level of LRWD1 plays an important role in spermatogenesis, the methylation status of LRWD1 may serve as a novel molecular diagnostic or therapeutic approach in male's infertility.

Keywords: DNA Methylation, P53, NrF2, LRWD1

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2 DNA Methylation Changes in Response to Ocean Acidification at the Time of Larval Metamorphosis in the Edible Oyster, Crassostrea hongkongensis

Authors: Yong-Kian Lim, Khan Cheung, Xin Dang, Steven Roberts, Xiaotong Wang, Vengatesen Thiyagarajan


Unprecedented rate of increased CO₂ level in the ocean and the subsequent changes in carbonate system including decreased pH, known as ocean acidification (OA), is predicted to disrupt not only the calcification process but also several other physiological and developmental processes in a variety of marine organisms, including edible oysters. Nonetheless, not all species are vulnerable to those OA threats, e.g., some species may be able to cope with OA stress using environmentally induced modifications on gene and protein expressions. For example, external environmental stressors, including OA, can influence the addition and removal of methyl groups through epigenetic modification (e.g., DNA methylation) process to turn gene expression “on or off” as part of a rapid adaptive mechanism to cope with OA. In this study, the above hypothesis was tested through testing the effect of OA, using decreased pH 7.4 as a proxy, on the DNA methylation pattern of an endemic and a commercially important estuary oyster species, Crassostrea hongkongensis, at the time of larval habitat selection and metamorphosis. Larval growth rate did not differ between control pH 8.1 and treatment pH 7.4. The metamorphosis rate of the pediveliger larvae was higher at pH 7.4 than those in control pH 8.1; however, over one-third of the larvae raised at pH 7.4 failed to attach to an optimal substrate as defined by biofilm presence. During larval development, a total of 130 genes were differentially methylated across the two treatments. The differential methylation in the larval genes may have partially accounted for the higher metamorphosis success rate under decreased pH 7.4 but with poor substratum selection ability. Differentially methylated loci were concentrated in the exon regions and appear to be associated with cytoskeletal and signal transduction, oxidative stress, metabolic processes, and larval metamorphosis, which implies the high potential of C. hongkongensis larvae to acclimate and adapt through non-genetic ways to OA threats within a single generation.

Keywords: Ocean acidification, DNA Methylation, adaptive plasticity, larval metamorphosis

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1 Identification of Candidate Congenital Heart Defects Biomarkers by Applying a Random Forest Approach on DNA Methylation Data

Authors: Kan Yu, Khui Hung Lee, Eben Afrifa-Yamoah, Jing Guo, Katrina Harrison, Jack Goldblatt, Nicholas Pachter, Jitian Xiao, Guicheng Brad Zhang


Background and Significance of the Study: Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are the most common malformation at birth and one of the leading causes of infant death. Although the exact etiology remains a significant challenge, epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation, are thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of congenital heart defects. At present, no existing DNA methylation biomarkers are used for early detection of CHDs. The existing CHD diagnostic techniques are time-consuming and costly and can only be used to diagnose CHDs after an infant was born. The present study employed a machine learning technique to analyse genome-wide methylation data in children with and without CHDs with the aim to find methylation biomarkers for CHDs. Methods: The Illumina Human Methylation EPIC BeadChip was used to screen the genome‐wide DNA methylation profiles of 24 infants diagnosed with congenital heart defects and 24 healthy infants without congenital heart defects. Primary pre-processing was conducted by using RnBeads and limma packages. The methylation levels of top 600 genes with the lowest p-value were selected and further investigated by using a random forest approach. ROC curves were used to analyse the sensitivity and specificity of each biomarker in both training and test sample sets. The functionalities of selected genes with high sensitivity and specificity were then assessed in molecular processes. Major Findings of the Study: Three genes (MIR663, FGF3, and FAM64A) were identified from both training and validating data by random forests with an average sensitivity and specificity of 85% and 95%. GO analyses for the top 600 genes showed that these putative differentially methylated genes were primarily associated with regulation of lipid metabolic process, protein-containing complex localization, and Notch signalling pathway. The present findings highlight that aberrant DNA methylation may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of congenital heart defects.

Keywords: Biomarker, DNA Methylation, random forest, congenital heart defects

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