DNA methylome in human CD4+ T cells identifies transcriptionally repressive and non-repressive methylation peaks

Genes Immun. 2010 Oct;11(7):554-60. doi: 10.1038/gene.2010.24. Epub 2010 May 13.


DNA methylation is an epigenetic mark that is critical in determining chromatin accessibility and regulating gene expression. This epigenetic mechanism has an important role in T-cell function. We used genome-wide methylation profiling to characterize the DNA methylome in primary human CD4+ T cells. We found that only 5% of CpG islands are methylated in CD4+ T cells, and that DNA methylation peak density is increased in subtelomeric chromosomal regions. We also found an inverse relationship between methylation peak density and chromosomal length. Our data indicate that DNA methylation in gene promoter regions is not always a repressive epigenetic mark. Indeed, about 27% of methylated genes are actively expressed in CD4+ T cells. We demonstrate that repressive methylation peaks are located closer to the transcription start site (TSS) compared with functionally non-repressive peaks (-893±110 bp versus -1342±218 bp (mean±s.e.m.), P-value <0.05). We also show that both a larger number and an increased CpG island density in promoter sequences predict transcriptional permissiveness of DNA methylation. TSS in the majority of genes with permissive DNA methylation peaks is in DNase I hypersensitive sites, indicating a failure of DNA methylation to induce chromatin inaccessibility in these loci.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Transcription Initiation Site


  • Chromatin