We recently reported a role of polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) and PRC2 trimethylation of histone 3 lysine 27 (H3K27me3) in the regulation of homeobox (HOX) (Marcinkiewicz and Gudas, 2013, Exp Cell Res) gene transcript levels in human oral keratinocytes (OKF6-TERT1R) and tongue squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cells. Here, we assessed both the levels of various histone modifications at a subset of homeobox genes and genome wide DNA methylation patterns in OKF6-TERT1R and SCC-9 cells by using ERRBS (enhanced reduced representation bisulfite sequencing). We detected the H3K9me3 mark at HOXB7, HOXC10, HOXC13, and HOXD8 at levels higher in OKF6-TERT1R than in SCC-9 cells; at IRX1 and SIX2 the H3K9me3 levels were conversely higher in SCC-9 than in OKF6-TERT1R. The H3K79me3 mark was detectable only at IRX1 in OKF6-TERT1R and at IRX4 in SCC-9 cells. The levels of H3K4me3 and H3K36me3 marks correlate with the transcript levels of the assessed homeobox genes in both OKF6-TERT1R and SCC-9. We detected generally lower CpG methylation levels on DNA in SCC-9 cells at annotated genomic regions which were differentially methylated between OKF6-TERT1R and SCC-9 cells; however, some genomic regions, including the HOX gene clusters, showed DNA methylation at higher levels in SCC-9 than OKF6-TERT1R. Thus, both altered histone modification patterns and changes in DNA methylation are associated with dysregulation of homeobox gene expression in human oral cavity SCC cells, and this dysregulation potentially plays a role in the neoplastic phenotype of oral keratinocytes.
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.