Background: DNA methylation is a key epigenetic mark in mammalian organisms that plays key roles in chromatin organization and gene expression. Although DNA methylation in gene promoters is generally associated with gene repression, recent studies demonstrate that DNA methylation in gene bodies and intergenic regions of the genome may result in distinct modes of gene regulation. Furthermore, the molecular mechanisms underlying the establishment and maintenance of DNA methylation in human health and disease remain to be fully elucidated. We recently demonstrated that a subset of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) associates with the major DNA methyltransferase DNMT1 in human colon cancer cells, and the dysregulation of such lncRNAs contribute to aberrant DNA methylation patterns.
Results: In the current study, we assessed the impact of a key DNMT1-associated lncRNA, DACOR1, on genome-wide DNA methylation using reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS). Our findings demonstrated that induction of DACOR1 in colon cancer cells restores DNA methylation at thousands of CpG sites throughout the genome including promoters, gene bodies, and intergenic regions. Importantly, these sites overlap with regions of the genome that become hypomethylated in colon tumors. Furthermore, induction of DACOR1 results in repression of FOS and JUN and, consequently, reduced AP-1 transcription factor activity.
Conclusion: Collectively, our results demonstrate a key role of lncRNAs in regulating DNA methylation in human cells, and the dysregulation of such lncRNAs could emerge as a key mechanism by which DNA methylation patterns become altered in human tumors.
Keywords: Colon cancer; Epigenetics; Tumorigenesis; lincRNAs.