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Mol Cell Biol. 2011 May;31(10):1949-58. doi: 10.1128/MCB.01063-10. Epub 2011 Mar 14.

Epigenetic regulation of surfactant protein A gene (SP-A) expression in fetal lung reveals a critical role for Suv39h methyltransferases during development and hypoxia.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, North Texas March of Dimes Birth Defects Center, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390-9038, USA.


SP-A gene expression is developmentally regulated in fetal lung. Cyclic AMP (cAMP) induction of SP-A expression in human fetal lung type II cells is O(2) dependent and is mediated by increased binding of TTF-1/Nkx2.1 and NF-κB to a critical response element (TBE). This is associated with increased acetylation and decreased methylation of H3K9 at the TBE. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis of fetal lung between 15.5 and 19.0 days of gestation, we observed that the developmental induction of SP-A was associated with increased recruitment of TTF-1, NF-κB, PCAF, and CBP, as well as enhanced acetylation and decreased methylation of histone H3K9 at the TBE. Importantly, expression and TBE binding of the H3K9 methyltransferases, Suv39h1 and Suv39h2, was inversely correlated with the developmental upregulation of SP-A. In human fetal lung epithelial cells, Suv39H1 and Suv39H2 mRNA levels declined with cAMP induction of SP-A. Moreover, hypoxia, which inhibits cAMP stimulation of SP-A, markedly increased Suv39h1 and Suv39h2 binding to the TBE. Finally, short hairpin RNA knockdown of Suv39H1 or Suv39H2 in fetal lung epithelial cells repressed H3K9 methylation and greatly enhanced SP-A expression. Collectively, our findings suggest that Suv39H1 and Suv39H2 are key hypoxia-induced methyltransferases; their decline in fetal lung during late gestation is critical for epigenetic changes resulting in the developmental induction of SP-A.

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