The conserved DNMT1-dependent methylation regions in human cells are vulnerable to neurotoxicant rotenone exposure

Dana M. Freeman, Dan Lou, Yanqiang Li, Suzanne N. Martos, Zhibin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) describes genomic loci that maintain CpG methylation at only one inherited allele rather than having coordinated methylation across both alleles. The most prominent of these regions are germline ASMs (gASMs) that control the expression of imprinted genes in a parent of origin-dependent manner and are associated with disease. However, our recent report reveals numerous ASMs at non-imprinted genes. These non-germline ASMs are dependent on DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) and strikingly show the feature of random, switchable monoallelic methylation patterns in the mouse genome. The significance of these ASMs to human health has not been explored. Due to their shared allelicity with gASMs, herein, we propose that non-traditional ASMs are sensitive to exposures in association with human disease. Results: We first explore their conservancy in the human genome. Our data show that our putative non-germline ASMs were in conserved regions of the human genome and located adjacent to genes vital for neuronal development and maturation. We next tested the hypothesized vulnerability of these regions by exposing human embryonic kidney cell HEK293 with the neurotoxicant rotenone for 24 h. Indeed,14 genes adjacent to our identified regions were differentially expressed from RNA-sequencing. We analyzed the base-resolution methylation patterns of the predicted non-germline ASMs at two neurological genes, HCN2 and NEFM, with potential to increase the risk of neurodegeneration. Both regions were significantly hypomethylated in response to rotenone. Conclusions: Our data indicate that non-germline ASMs seem conserved between mouse and human genomes, overlap important regulatory factor binding motifs, and regulate the expression of genes vital to neuronal function. These results support the notion that ASMs are sensitive to environmental factors such as rotenone and may alter the risk of neurological disease later in life by disrupting neuronal development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17
JournalEpigenetics and Chromatin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 16 2020


  • Allele-specific methylation
  • DNA methylation
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Rotenone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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