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Gene Expr. 2010;15(2):51-9.

Reversible epigenetic modifications of the two cardiac myosin heavy chain genes during changes in expression.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7525, USA.


The two genes of the cardiac myosin heavy chain (MHC) locus-alpha-MHC (aMHC) and beta-MHC (bMHC)--are reciprocally regulated in the mouse ventricle during development and in adult conditions such as hypothyroidism and pathological cardiac hypertrophy. Their expressions are under the control of thyroid hormone T3 levels. To gain insights into the epigenetic mechanisms that underlie this inducible and reversible switching of the aMHC and bMHC isoforms, we have investigated the histone modification patterns that occur over the two cardiac MHC promoters during T3-mediated reversible switching of gene expression. Mice fed a diet of propylthiouracil (PTU, an inhibitor of T3 synthesis) for 2 weeks dramatically reduce aMHC mRNA expression and increase bMHC mRNA levels to high levels, while a subsequent withdrawal of PTU diet for 2 weeks completely reverses the T3-mediated changes in MHC expression. Using hearts from mice treated in this way, we carried out chromatin immunoprecipitation-qPCR assays with antibodies against acetylated histone H3 (H3ac) and trimethylated histone (H3K4me3)-two well-documented markers of activation. Our results show that the reexpression of bMHC is associated at the bMHC promoter with increased H3ac but not H3K4me3. In contrast, the silencing of aMHC is associated at its promoter with decreased H3K4me3, but not decreased H3ac. The epigenetic changes at the two MHC promoters are completely reversed when the gene expression returns to initial levels. These data indicate that during reciprocal and inducible gene expression H3ac parallels bMHC isoform expression while H3K4me3 parallels expression of the tightly linked aMHC isoform.

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