Widespread differences in cortex DNA methylation of the “language gene” CNTNAP2 between humans and chimpanzees
Eberhard Schneider, Nady El Hajj, Steven Richter, Justin Roche-Santiago, Indrajit Nanda, Werner Schempp, Peter Riederer, Bianca Navarro, Ronald E Bontrop, Ivanela Kondova, Claus Jürgen Scholz and Thomas Haaf
CNTNAP2, one of the largest genes in the human genome, has been linked to human-specific language abilities and neurodevelopmental disorders. Our hypothesis is that epigenetic rather than genetic changes have accelerated the evolution of the human brain. To compare the cortex DNA methylation patterns of human and chimpanzee CNTNAP2 at ultra-high resolution, we combined methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) with NimbleGen tiling arrays for the orthologous gene and flanking sequences. Approximately 1.59 Mb of the 2.51 Mb target region could be aligned and analyzed with a customized algorithm in both species. More than one fifth (0.34 Mb) of the analyzed sequence throughout the entire gene displayed significant methylation differences between six human and five chimpanzee cortices. One of the most striking interspecies differences with 28% methylation in human and 59% in chimpanzee cortex (by bisulfite pyrosequencing) lies in a region 300 bp upstream of human SNP rs7794745 which has been associated with autism and parent-of-origin effects. Quantitative real-time RT PCR revealed that the protein-coding splice variant CNTNAP2-201 is 1.6-fold upregulated in human cortex, compared with the chimpanzee. Transcripts CNTNAP2-001, -002, and -003 did not show skewed allelic expression, which argues against CNTNAP2 imprinting, at least in adult human brain. Collectively, our results suggest widespread cortex DNA methylation changes in CNTNAP2 since the human-chimpanzee split, supporting a role for CNTNAP2 fine-regulation in human-specific language and communication traits.
Chromatin remodeling mediated by the FOXA1/A2 transcription factors activates CFTR expression in intestinal epithelial cells
Jenny L Kerschner, Nehal Gosalia, Shih-Hsing Leir and Ann Harris
The forkhead box A transcription factors, FOXA1 and FOXA2, function as pioneer factors to open condensed chromatin and facilitate binding of other proteins. We showed previously that these factors are key components of a transcriptional network that drives enhancer function at the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) locus in intestinal epithelial cells. The CFTR promoter apparently lacks tissue-specific regulatory elements and expression of the gene is controlled by multiple cis-acting elements, which coordinate gene expression in different cell types. Here we show that concurrent depletion of FOXA1 and FOXA2 represses CFTR expression and alters the three-dimensional architecture of the active locus by diminishing interactions between the promoter and intronic cis-acting elements. Reduction of FOXA1/A2 also modifies the enrichment profile of the active enhancer marks H3K27ac and H3K4me2 across the CFTR locus and alters chromatin accessibility at individual cis-elements. Moreover, loss of FOXA1/A2 suppresses the recruitment of other members of the transcriptional network including HNF1 and CDX2, to multiple cis-elements. These data reveal a complex molecular mechanism underlying the role of FOXA1/A2 in achieving high levels of CFTR expression in intestinal epithelial cells.
Role of BRD4 in hematopoietic differentiation of embryonic stem cells
Ramon M Rodriguez, Beatriz Suarez-Alvarez, Ruben Salvanés, Covadonga Huidobro, Estela G Toraño, Jose L Garcia-Perez, Carlos Lopez-Larrea, Agustin F Fernandez, Clara Bueno, Pablo Menendez and Mario F Fraga
The bromodomain and extra terminal (BET) protein family member BRD4 is a transcriptional regulator, critical for cell cycle progression and cellular viability. Here, we show that BRD4 plays an important role in embryonic stem cell (ESC) regulation. During differentiation of ESCs, BRD4 expression is upregulated and its gene promoter becomes demethylated. Disruption of BRD4 expression in ESCs did not induce spontaneous differentiation but severely diminished hematoendothelial potential. Although BRD4 regulates c-Myc expression, our data show that the role of BRD4 in hematopoietic commitment is not exclusively mediated by c-Myc. Our results indicate that BRD4 is epigenetically regulated during hematopoietic differentiation ESCs in the context of a still unknown signaling pathway.