DNA demethylation is a driver for chick retina regeneration

Epigenetics. 2020 Sep;15(9):998-1019. doi: 10.1080/15592294.2020.1747742. Epub 2020 Apr 14.


Cellular reprogramming resets the epigenetic landscape to drive shifts in transcriptional programmes and cell identity. The embryonic chick can regenerate a complete neural retina, after retinectomy, via retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) reprogramming in the presence of FGF2. In this study, we systematically analysed the reprogramming competent chick RPE prior to injury, and during different stages of reprogramming. In addition to changes in the expression of genes associated with epigenetic modifications during RPE reprogramming, we observed dynamic changes in histone marks associated with bivalent chromatin (H3K27me3/H3K4me3) and intermediates of the process of DNA demethylation including 5hmC and 5caC. Comprehensive analysis of the methylome by whole-genome bisulphite sequencing (WGBS) confirmed extensive rearrangements of DNA methylation patterns including differentially methylated regions (DMRs) found at promoters of genes associated with chromatin organization and fibroblast growth factor production. We also identified Tet methylcytosine dioxygenase 3 (TET3) as an important factor for DNA demethylation and retina regeneration, capable of reprogramming RPE in the absence of exogenous FGF2. In conclusion, we demonstrate that injury early in RPE reprogramming triggers genome-wide dynamic changes in chromatin, including bivalent chromatin and DNA methylation. In the presence of FGF2, these dynamic modifications are further sustained in the commitment to form a new retina. Our findings reveal active DNA demethylation as an important process that may be applied to remove the epigenetic barriers in order to regenerate retina in mammals.

Abbreviations: bp: Base pair; DMR: Differentially methylated region; DMC: Differentially methylated cytosines; GFP: Green fluorescent protein; PCR: Polymerase chain reaction. TET: Ten-eleven translocation; RPE: retinal pigment epithelium.

Keywords: Retina regeneration; demethylation; reprogramming; retinal pigment epithelium; tet3.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine / analogs & derivatives
  • 5-Methylcytosine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Avian Proteins / metabolism
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Cytosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cytosine / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Dioxygenases / metabolism
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / metabolism
  • Histone Code
  • Regeneration*
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelium / metabolism*
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelium / physiology


  • 5-carboxylcytosine
  • Avian Proteins
  • Chromatin
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2
  • 5-hydroxymethylcytosine
  • 5-Methylcytosine
  • Cytosine
  • Dioxygenases