Novel epigenetic patterns involved in cell fate regulation

Dec 15, 2011
Novel epigenetic patterns involved in cell fate regulation
Clear difference in the epigentic pattern (LMR) of stem cells (top) and neuronal precursors (bottom).

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) publish exciting new results on the regulation of cell fate in the scientific journal Nature. They identified novel epigenetic patterns that are generated dynamically by transcription factors depending on the cell type and stage of development. The identification of these epigenetic "fingerprints" allows conclusions about the history and the fate of the cells and should also aid in understanding the processes that lead to diseases such as cancer.

A chip of paint, a fingerprint or a fiber left behind... clues barely discernible to the eye help us to draw conclusions about the sequence of events in a crime. On a similar search for clues as to how the vast number of our is regulated, researchers from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) and the Institutes for BioMedical Research have now discovered that proteins that bind to DNA leave specific molecular behind. As they report today in the renowned , using a highly sensitive method, they discovered that transcription factors manipulate epigenetic markings on the DNA in a targeted fashion. These molecular clues aid in understanding how genes are regulated.

To accomplish this, epigeneticists in the laboratory of Dirk Schübeler, Group Leader at the FMI and Professor at the University of Basel, and bioinformaticians in the Computational Biology Unit headed by Michael Stadler compared the methylation patterns of stem cells with those of neuronal progenitors. In doing so, they found regions on the DNA that bear particularly few methyl groups. These so-called LMRs (low methylated regions) vary from one cell type to another. They are located in the regions of the genes that control transcription and thus cell fate. Further analysis showed that transcription factors contribute to the emergence of the LMR pattern in a targeted manner. Without the action of the transcription factors, the DNA remains methylated and compactly packaged. Moreover, the LMRs are dynamic and change depending on the developmental stage of the cell.

"These results represent a paradigm shift," comments Schübeler. "The direct connection we observed between transcription factors and DNA methylation places greater emphasis again on in controlling ."

But the results also have important practical applications. "There is a worldwide effort to decode the epigenome of various types of cancer. Our results now show that the data collected from these projects also enable the reconstruction of the processes that led to cancer," says Schübeler. "In this way, we can relatively simply and reliably identify the cell processes and proteins that have gone awry."

Explore further: Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

More information: Stadler MB, Murr R, Burger L, Ivanek R, Lienert F, Schöler A, Wirbelauer C, Oakeley EJ, Gaidatzis D, Tiwari VK, Schübeler D. (2011) DNA-binding factors shape the mouse methylome at distal regulatory regions. Nature, doi:10.1038/nature10716

Journal reference: Nature search and more info website

Provided by Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research

5 /5 (1 vote)

Related Stories

Controlling patterns of DNA methylation

Oct 28, 2011

A study performed by scientists in Dirk Schübeler's team at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel identifies DNA sequences that autonomously determine DNA methylation patterns. ...

Histone modifications control accessibility of DNA

Jul 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- n an advanced online publication in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology scientist from Dirk Schübeler's group from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research provide a geno ...

Untangling the life sciences

Aug 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Last month, Dr. Michael Stadler and his Computational Biology group at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research became a member laboratory of the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. ...

Putting microRNAs on the stem cell map

Aug 07, 2008

Embryonic stem cells are always facing a choice—either to self-renew or begin morphing into another type of cell altogether. It's a tricky choice, governed by complex gene regulatory circuitry driven by a handful of key ...

Recommended for you

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

23 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

For resetting circadian rhythms, neural cooperation is key

22 hours ago

Fruit flies are pretty predictable when it comes to scheduling their days, with peaks of activity at dawn and dusk and rest times in between. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports on April 17th h ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...