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Link between epigenomic alterations and genome-wide aberrant transcriptional response to allergen in dendritic cells conveying maternal asthma risk

Lyudmila Mikhaylova, Yiming Zhang, Lester Kobzik, Alexey V Fedulov
PloS One 2013, 8 (8): e70387
23950928
We investigated the link between epigenome-wide methylation aberrations at birth and genomic transcriptional changes upon allergen sensitization that occur in the neonatal dendritic cells (DC) due to maternal asthma. We previously demonstrated that neonates of asthmatic mothers are born with a functional skew in splenic DCs that can be seen even in allergen-naïve pups and can convey allergy responses to normal recipients. However, minimal-to-no transcriptional or phenotypic changes were found to explain this alteration. Here we provide in-depth analysis of genome-wide DNA methylation profiles and RNA transcriptional (microarray) profiles before and after allergen sensitization. We identified differentially methylated and differentially expressed loci and performed manually-curated matching of methylation status of the key regulatory sequences (promoters and CpG islands) to expression of their respective transcripts before and after sensitization. We found that while allergen-naive DCs from asthma-at-risk neonates have minimal transcriptional change compared to controls, the methylation changes are extensive. The substantial transcriptional change only becomes evident upon allergen sensitization, when it occurs in multiple genes with the pre-existing epigenetic alterations. We demonstrate that maternal asthma leads to both hyper- and hypomethylation in neonatal DCs, and that both types of events at various loci significantly overlap with transcriptional responses to allergen. Pathway analysis indicates that approximately 1/2 of differentially expressed and differentially methylated genes directly interact in known networks involved in allergy and asthma processes. We conclude that congenital epigenetic changes in DCs are strongly linked to altered transcriptional responses to allergen and to early-life asthma origin. The findings are consistent with the emerging paradigm that asthma is a disease with underlying epigenetic changes.

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