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Epigenetics. 2012 Jan 1;7(1):71-82. doi: 10.4161/epi.7.1.18750. Epub 2012 Jan 1.

Role of DNMT3B in the regulation of early neural and neural crest specifiers.

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Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, University of Connecticut Health Center, University of Connecticut Stem Cell Institute, Farmington, CT, USA.


The de novo DNA methyltransferase DNMT3B functions in establishing DNA methylation patterns during development. DNMT3B missense mutations cause immunodeficiency, centromere instability and facial anomalies (ICF) syndrome. The restriction of Dnmt3b expression to neural progenitor cells, as well as the mild cognitive defects observed in ICF patients, suggests that DNMT3B may play an important role in early neurogenesis. We performed RNAi knockdown of DNMT3B in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in order to investigate the mechanistic contribution of DNMT3B to DNA methylation and early neuronal differentiation. While DNMT3B was not required for early neuroepithelium specification, DNMT3B deficient neuroepithelium exhibited accelerated maturation with earlier expression, relative to normal hESCs, of mature neuronal markers (such as NEUROD1) and of early neuronal regional specifiers (such as those for the neural crest). Genome-wide analyses of DNA methylation by MethylC-seq identified novel regions of hypomethylation in the DNMT3B knockdowns along the X chromosome as well as pericentromeric regions, rather than changes to promoters of specific dysregulated genes. We observed a loss of H3K27me3 and the polycomb complex protein EZH2 at the promoters of early neural and neural crest specifier genes during differentiation of DNMT3B knockdown but not normal hESCs. Our results indicate that DNMT3B mediates large-scale methylation patterns in hESCs and that DNMT3B deficiency in the cells alters the timing of their neuronal differentiation and maturation.

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