Variable DAXX gene methylation is a common feature of Placental trophoblast differentiation, preeclampsia, and response to hypoxia

Boris Novakovic, Danièle Evain-Brion, Padma Murthi, Thiery Fournier, Richard Saffery

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Placental functioning relies on the appropriate differentiation of progenitor villous cytotrophoblasts (CTBs) into extravillous cytotrophoblasts (EVCTs), including invasive EVCTs, and the multinucleated syncytiotrophoblast (ST) layer. This is accompanied by a general move away from a proliferative, immature phenotype. Genome-scale expression studies have provided valuable insight into genes that are associated with the shift to both an invasive EVCT and ST phenotype, whereas genome-scale DNA methylation analysis has shown that differentiation to ST involves wide spread methylation shifts, which are counter acted by low oxygen. In the current study, we sought to identify DNA methylation variation that is associated with transition from CTB to ST in vitro and from a noninvasive to invasive EVCT phenotype after culture on Matrigel. Of the several hundred differentially methylated regions that were identified in each comparison, the majority showed a loss of methylation with differentiation. This included a large differentially methylated region (DMR) in the gene body of death domain-associated protein 6 (DAXX), which lost methylation during both CTB syncytialization to ST and EVCT differentiation to invasive EVCT. Comparison to publicly available methylation array data identified the same DMR as among the most consistently differentially methylated genes in placental samples from preeclampsia pregnancies.Of interest, in vitro culture of CTB or ST in low oxygen increases methylation in the same region, which correlates with delayed differentiation. Analysis of combined epigenomics signatures confirmed DAXX DMR as a likely regulatory element, and direct gene expression analysis identified a positive association between methylation at this site and DAXX expression levels. The widespread dynamic nature of DAXX methylation in association with trophoblast differentiation and placenta-associated pathologies is consistent with an important role for this gene in proper placental development and function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2380-2392
Number of pages13
JournalThe FASEB Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • DNA methylation
  • Infinium HM450
  • Placenta

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