Dynamic enhancer methylation - A previously unrecognized switch for tissue-type plasminogen activator expression

Mia Magnusson, Emma Xuchun Lu, Pia Larsson, Erik Ulfhammer, Niklas Bergh, Helena Carén, Sverker Jern

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA), which is synthesized in the endothelial cells lining the blood vessel walls, is a key player in the fibrinolytic system protecting the circulation against occluding thrombus formation. Although classical gene regulation has been quite extensively studied in order to understand the mechanisms behind t-PA regulation, epigenetics, including DNA methylation, still is a largely unexplored field. The aim of this study was to establish the methylation pattern in the t-PA promoter and enhancer in non-cultured compared to cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs), and to simultaneously examine the level of t-PA gene expression. Bisulphite sequencing was used to evaluate the methylation status, and real-time RT-PCR to determine the gene expression level. While the t-PA promoter was stably unmethylated, we surprisingly observed a rapid reduction in the amount of methylation in the enhancer during cell culturing. This demethylation was in strong negative correlation with a pronounced (by a factor of approximately 25) increase in t-PA gene expression levels. In this study, we show that the methylation level in the t-PA enhancer appears to act as a previously unrecognized switch controlling t-PA expression. Our findings, which suggest that DNA methylation is quite dynamic, have implications also for the interpretation of cell culture experiments in general, as well as in a wider biological context.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0141805
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

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