The relationship between DNA methylation, histone modifications and terminal differentiation in cardiomyocytes was investigated in this study. The upregulation of methylation-related proteins, including DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) 1, methyl-CpG binding domain proteins 1, 2 and 3, and the increase in global methylation during rat neonatal heart development were observed. Moreover, an increase in DNA synthesis and a delay in differentiation were found in 5-azacytidine (5-azaC)-treated cardiomyocytes. Increase in acetylation of H3-K9, H4-K5, H4-K8 and methylation of H3-K4 suggested a more accessible chromatin structure in 5-azaC-treated cells. Furthermore, methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 was found to be upregulated in differentiated cardiomyocytes. Overexpression of this protein resulted in an increase of global methylation levels. Therefore, we suggest that a hypermethylated genome and a more compact chromatin structure are formed during terminal differentiation of cardiomyocytes.
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