DNA hypomethylation and unusual chromosome instability in cell lines from ICF syndrome patients

Cytogenet Cell Genet. 2000;89(1-2):121-8. doi: 10.1159/000015590.


The ICF syndrome (immunodeficiency, centromeric region instability, facial anomalies) is a unique DNA methylation deficiency disease diagnosed by an extraordinary collection of chromosomal anomalies specifically in the vicinity of the centromeres of chromosomes 1 and 16 (Chr1 and Chr16) in mitogen-stimulated lymphocytes. These aberrations include decondensation of centromere-adjacent (qh) heterochromatin, multiradial chromosomes with up to 12 arms, and whole-arm deletions. We demonstrate that lymphoblastoid cell lines from two ICF patients exhibit these Chr1 and Chr16 anomalies in 61% of the cells and continuously generate 1qh or 16qh breaks. No other consistent chromosomal abnormality was seen except for various telomeric associations, which had not been previously noted in ICF cells. Surprisingly, multiradials composed of arms of both Chr1 and Chr16 were favored over homologous associations and cells containing multiradials with 3 or >4 arms almost always displayed losses or gains of Chr1 or Chr16 arms from the metaphase. Our results suggest that decondensation of 1qh and 16qh often leads to unresolved Holliday junctions, chromosome breakage, arm missegregation, and the formation of multiradials that may yield more stable chromosomal abnormalities, such as translocations. These cell lines maintained the abnormal hypomethylation in 1qh and 16qh seen in ICF tissues. The ICF-specific hypomethylation occurs in only a small percentage of the genome, e.g., ICF brain DNA had 7% less 5-methylcytosine than normal brain DNA. The ICF lymphoblastoid cell lines, therefore, retain not only the ICF-specific pattern of chromosome rearrangements, but also of targeted DNA hypomethylation. This hypomethylation of heterochromatic DNA sequences is seen in many cancers and may predispose to chromosome rearrangements in cancer as well as in ICF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / genetics*
  • Abnormalities, Multiple / pathology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Cell Line
  • Centromere / genetics*
  • Chromosome Aberrations / genetics
  • Chromosome Fragility / genetics*
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 1 / genetics
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 16 / genetics
  • Cytosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cytosine / analysis
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA, Satellite / genetics
  • Face / abnormalities*
  • Female
  • Heterochromatin / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / genetics*
  • Immunologic Deficiency Syndromes / pathology
  • Infant
  • Karyotyping
  • Male
  • Syndrome
  • Telomere / genetics


  • DNA, Satellite
  • Heterochromatin
  • 5-Methylcytosine
  • Cytosine