The recently discovered de novo methyltransferases DNMT3a and DNMT3b have been shown to be critical to embryonic development. However, at a single gene level, little is known about how the methylation pattern is established during development. The avian embryonic p-globin gene promoter is completely unmethylated in 4-day-old chicken embryonic erythroid cells, where it is expressed at a high level, and completely methylated in adult erythroid cells, where it is silent. The methylation pattern of the p-globin gene promoter, proximal transcribed region, and distal transcribed region on both DNA strands was examined during development in chicken erythroid cells. It was found that de novo methylation targets the CpG-dense proximal transcribed region on the coding (top) strand initially, followed by spreading into the 3′ region and into the promoter region. Methylation of the template (bottom) strand lags behind that of the coding strand, and complete methylation of both strands occurs only after the gene has been silenced. The results of the study indicate that establishment of the de novo methylation pattern involves strand-specificity and methylation spreading.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology