Direct reprogramming of fibroblasts to neurons induces widespread cellular and transcriptional reconfiguration. Here, we characterized global epigenomic changes during the direct reprogramming of mouse fibroblasts to neurons using whole-genome base-resolution DNA methylation (mC) sequencing. We found that the pioneer transcription factor Ascl1 alone is sufficient for inducing the uniquely neuronal feature of non-CG methylation (mCH), but co-expression of Brn2 and Mytl1 was required to establish a global mCH pattern reminiscent of mature cortical neurons. Ascl1 alone induced promoter CG methylation (mCG) of fibroblast specific genes, while BAM overexpression additionally targets a competing myogenic program and directs a more faithful conversion to neuronal cells. Ascl1 induces local demethylation at its binding sites. Surprisingly, co-expression with Brn2 and Mytl1 inhibited the ability of Ascl1 to induce demethylation, suggesting a contextual regulation of transcription factor - epigenome interaction. Finally, we found that de novo methylation by DNMT3A is required for efficient neuronal reprogramming.
Keywords: DNA methylation; epigenetics; epigenomics; genetics; genomics; mouse; neuron; regenerative medicine; reprogramming; stem cells; transdifferentiation.
© 2019, Luo et al.