Highly individual methylation patterns of alternative glucocorticoid receptor promoters suggest individualized epigenetic regulatory mechanisms

Jonathan D. Turner, Laetitia P.L. Pelascini, Joana A. MacEdo, Claude P. Muller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The transcription start sites (TSS) and promoters of many genes are located in upstream CpG islands. Methylation within such islands is known for both imprinted and oncogenes, although poorly studied for other genes, especially those with complex CpG islands containing multiple first exons and promoters. The glucocorticoid receptor (GR) CpG island contains seven alternative first exons and their promoters. Here we show for the five GR promoters activated in PBMCs that methylation patterns are highly variable between individuals. The majority of positions were methylated at levels >25% in at least one donor affecting each promoter and TSS. We also examined the evolutionarily conserved transcription factor binding sites (TFBS) using an improved in silico phylogenetic footprinting technique. The majority of these contain methylatable CpG sites, suggesting that methylation may orchestrates alternative first exon usage, silencing and controlling tissue-specific expression. The heterogeneity observed may reflect epigenetic mechanisms of GR fine tuning, programmed by early life environment and events. With 78% of evolutionarily conserved alternative first exons falling into such complex CpG islands, their internal structure and epigenetic modifications are bound to be biologically important, and may be a common transcriptional control mechanism used throughout many phyla.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7207-7218
Number of pages12
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Volume36
Issue number22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008

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