Fighting Against Promoter DNA Hyper-Methylation: Protective Histone Modification Profiles of Stress-Resistant Intestinal Stem Cells

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Mar 12;21(6):1941. doi: 10.3390/ijms21061941.


Aberrant DNA methylation in stem cells is a hallmark of aging and tumor development. Recently, we have suggested that promoter DNA hyper-methylation originates in DNA repair and that even successful DNA repair might confer this kind of epigenetic long-term change. Here, we ask for interrelations between promoter DNA methylation and histone modification changes observed in the intestine weeks after irradiation and/or following Msh2 loss. We focus on H3K4me3 recruitment to the promoter of H3K27me3 target genes. By RNA- and histone ChIP-sequencing, we demonstrate that this recruitment occurs without changes of the average gene transcription and does not involve H3K9me3. Applying a mathematical model of epigenetic regulation of transcription, we show that the recruitment can be explained by stronger DNA binding of H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 histone methyl-transferases as a consequence of lower DNA methylation. This scenario implicates stable transcription despite of H3K4me3 recruitment, in agreement with our RNA-seq data. Following several kinds of stress, including moderate irradiation, stress-sensitive intestinal stem cell (ISCs) are known to become replaced by more resistant populations. Our simulation results suggest that the stress-resistant ISCs are largely protected against promoter hyper-methylation of H3K27me3 target genes.

Keywords: DNA damage; computational modeling; histone methylation; irradiation; loss of Msh2 function; promoter DNA hyper-methylation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Histone Code / genetics
  • Histones / genetics*
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Histones
  • histone H3 trimethyl Lys4
  • DNA