Vorjohann, S., Pitetti, J.L., Nef, S., Gonelle-Gispert, C., Buhler, L., Fish, R.J., and Neerman-Arbez, M. (2013) DNA Methylation Profiling of the Fibrinogen Gene Landscape in Human Cells and during Mouse and Zebrafish Development. PLoS One. 8(8):e73089.
The fibrinogen genes FGA, FGB and FGG show coordinated expression in hepatocytes. Understanding the underlying transcriptional regulation may elucidate how their tissue-specific expression is maintained and explain the high variability in fibrinogen blood levels. DNA methylation of CpG-poor gene promoters is dynamic with low methylation correlating with tissue-specific gene expression but its direct effect on gene regulation as well as implications of non-promoter CpG methylation are not clear. Here we compared methylation of CpG sites throughout the fibrinogen gene cluster in human cells and mouse and zebrafish tissues. We observed low DNA methylation of the CpG-poor fibrinogen promoters and of additional regulatory elements (the liver enhancers CNC12 and PFE2) in fibrinogen-expressing samples. In a gene reporter assay, CpG-methylation in the FGA promoter reduced promoter activity, suggesting a repressive function for DNA methylation in the fibrinogen locus. In mouse and zebrafish livers we measured reductions in DNA methylation around fibrinogen genes during development that were preceded by increased fibrinogen expression and tri-methylation of Histone3 lysine4 (H3K4me3) in fibrinogen promoters. Our data support a model where changes in hepatic transcription factor expression and histone modification provide the switch for increased fibrinogen gene expression in the developing liver which is followed by reduction of CpG methylation.