Tissue-Biased Expansion of DNMT3A-Mutant Clones in a Mosaic Individual Is Associated with Conserved Epigenetic Erosion

Cell Stem Cell. 2020 Aug 6;27(2):326-335.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2020.06.018. Epub 2020 Jul 15.


DNA methyltransferase 3A (DNMT3A) is the most commonly mutated gene in clonal hematopoiesis (CH). Somatic DNMT3A mutations arise in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) many years before malignancies develop, but difficulties in comparing their impact before malignancy with wild-type cells have limited the understanding of their contributions to transformation. To circumvent this limitation, we derived normal and DNMT3A mutant lymphoblastoid cell lines from a germline mosaic individual in whom these cells co-existed for nearly 6 decades. Mutant cells dominated the blood system, but not other tissues. Deep sequencing revealed similar mutational burdens and signatures in normal and mutant clones, while epigenetic profiling uncovered the focal erosion of DNA methylation at oncogenic regulatory regions in mutant clones. These regions overlapped with those sensitive to DNMT3A loss after DNMT3A ablation in HSCs and in leukemia samples. These results suggest that DNMT3A maintains a conserved DNA methylation pattern, the erosion of which provides a distinct competitive advantage to hematopoietic cells.

Keywords: DNMT3A; HSC; cell competition; clonal hematopoiesis; hematopoietic stem cells; mutation burden; mutation signature.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Clone Cells
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases* / genetics
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Hematopoiesis* / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics


  • DNMT3A protein, human
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNA Methyltransferase 3A