Aberrantly silenced promoters retain a persistent memory of the silenced state after long-term reactivation

Jon A Oyer, Phillip A Yates, Sarah Godsey, Mitchell S Turker
Mutation Research 2011 January 10, 706 (1-2): 21-7
A hallmark of aberrant DNA methylation-associated silencing is reversibility. However, long-term stability of reactivated promoters has not been explored. To examine this issue, spontaneous reactivant clones were isolated from mouse embryonal carcinoma cells bearing aberrantly silenced Aprt alleles and re-silencing frequencies were determined as long as three months after reactivation occurred. Despite continuous selection for expression of the reactivated Aprt alleles, exceptionally high spontaneous re-silencing frequencies were observed. A DNA methylation analysis demonstrated retention of sporadic methylation of CpG sites in a protected region of the Aprt promoter in many reactivant alleles suggesting a role for these methylated sites in the re-silencing process. In contrast, a chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis for methyl-H3K4, acetyl-H3K9, and dimethyl-H3K9 levels failed to reveal a specific histone modification that could explain high frequency re-silencing. These results demonstrate that aberrantly silenced and reactivated promoters retain a persistent memory of having undergone the silencing process and suggest the failure to eliminate all CpG methylation as a potential contributing mechanism.

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