Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b-Decommissioned Fetal Enhancers are Linked to Kidney Disease

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2020 Apr;31(4):765-782. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2019080797. Epub 2020 Mar 3.


Background: Cytosine methylation is an epigenetic mark that dictates cell fate and response to stimuli. The timing and establishment of methylation logic during kidney development remains unknown. DNA methyltransferase 3a and 3b are the enzymes capable of establishing de novo methylation.

Methods: We generated mice with genetic deletion of Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b in nephron progenitor cells (Six2 Cre Dnmt3a/3b) and kidney tubule cells (Ksp Cre Dnmt3a/3b). We characterized Ksp Cre Dnmt3a/3b mice at baseline and after injury. Unbiased omics profiling, such as whole genome bisulfite sequencing, reduced representation bisulfite sequencing and RNA sequencing were performed on whole-kidney samples and isolated renal tubule cells.

Results: Ksp Cre Dnmt3a/3b mice showed no obvious morphologic and functional alterations at baseline. Knockout animals exhibited increased resistance to cisplatin-induced kidney injury, but not to folic acid-induced fibrosis. Whole-genome bisulfite sequencing indicated that Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b play an important role in methylation of gene regulatory regions that act as fetal-specific enhancers in the developing kidney but are decommissioned in the mature kidney. Loss of Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b resulted in failure to silence developmental genes. We also found that fetal-enhancer regions methylated by Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b were enriched for kidney disease genetic risk loci. Methylation patterns of kidneys from patients with CKD showed defects similar to those in mice with Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b deletion.

Conclusions: Our results indicate a potential locus-specific convergence of genetic, epigenetic, and developmental elements in kidney disease development.

Keywords: Dnmt3a; Dnmt3b; WGBS; de novo methylation; fetal enhancer; kidney development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / physiology*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Kidney / embryology*
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Stem Cells


  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNA methyltransferase 3A
  • DNA methyltransferase 3B