Lung endoderm development occurs through a series of finely coordinated transcriptional processes that are regulated by epigenetic mechanisms. However, the role of DNA methylation in regulating lung endoderm development remains poorly understood. We demonstrate that DNA methyltransferase 1 (Dnmt1) is required for early branching morphogenesis of the lungs and for restraining epithelial fate specification. Loss of Dnmt1 leads to an early branching defect, a loss of epithelial polarity and proximal endodermal cell differentiation, and an expansion of the distal endoderm compartment. Dnmt1 deficiency also disrupts epithelial-mesenchymal crosstalk and leads to precocious distal endodermal cell differentiation with premature expression of alveolar type 2 cell restricted genes. These data reveal an important requirement for Dnmt1 mediated DNA methylation in early lung development to promote proper branching morphogenesis, maintain proximal endodermal cell fate, and suppress premature activation of the distal epithelial fate.
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