At least two distinct epigenetic mechanisms are correlated with high-frequency "switching" for aprt phenotypic expression in mouse embryonal carcinoma stem cells

Gregory E. Cooper, Nada H. Khattar, Peggy L. Bishop, Mitchell S. Turker

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A series of clones displaying high frequency "switching" phenotypes for expression of the adenine phosphoribosyltransferase (aprt) gene were previously isolated from the P19 mouse embryonal carcinoma stem cell line. Most clones contained only one aprt allele. We report here the characterization of each of these clones with regards to enzymatic activity, mRNA steady state levels, DNA methylation, and chromatin conformation. When clones were selected for resistance to the purine analog 2,6-diaminopurine, which requires markedly reduced levels of APRT enzymatic activity, two distinct classes were observed. The first class was associated with reduced or undetectable levels of aprt mRNA, hypermethylation of the 5′ CpG island, and a closed chromatin conformation within this region. When clones of this class were selected for reacquisition of APRT enzymatic activity they were found to have increased mRNA levels, a hypomethylated CpG island, and an open chromatin conformation. In contrast, the second class of clones displayed wild-type levels of mRNA, CpG island hypomethylation, and an open chromatin conformation regardless of whether they were selected for the presence or absence of APRT enzymatic activity. The implications of these results for general mechanisms of epigenetic change in somatic cells and the possibility that expression of the mouse aprt gene may be developmentally regulated are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-225
Number of pages11
JournalSomatic Cell and Molecular Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 1992


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology

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