DNA methyltransferase 3B mutations linked to the ICF syndrome cause dysregulation of lymphogenesis genes

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ICF (immunodeficiency, centromeric region instability and facial anomalies) is a recessive disease caused by mutations in the DNA methyltransferase 3B gene (DNMT3B). Patients have immunodeficiency, chromosome 1 (Chr1) and Chr16 pericentromeric anomalies in mitogen-stimulated lymphocytes, a small decrease in overall genomic 5-methylcytosine levels and much hypomethylation of Chr1 and Chr16 juxtacentromeric heterochromatin. Microarray expression analysis was done on B-cell lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from ICF patients with diverse DNMT3B mutations and on control LCLs using oligonucleotide arrays for approximately 5600 different genes, 510 of which showed a lymphoid lineage-restricted expression pattern among several different lineages tested. A set of 32 genes had consistent and significant ICF-specific changes in RNA levels. Half of these genes play a role in immune function. ICF-specific increases in immunoglobulin (Ig) heavy constant µ and δ RNA and cell surface IgM and IgD and decreases in Igγ and Igα RNA and surface IgG and IgA indicate inhibition of the later steps of lymphocyte maturation. ICF-specific increases were seen in RNA for RGS1, a B-cell specific inhibitor of G-protein signaling implicated in negative regulation of B-cell migration, and in RNA for the pro-apoptotic protein kinase C eta gene. ICF-associated decreases were observed in RNAs encoding proteins involved in activation, migration or survival of lymphoid cells, namely, transcription factor negative regulator ID3, the enhancer-binding MEF2C, the iron regulatory transferrin receptor, integrin β7, the stress protein heme oxygenase and the lymphocyte-specific tumor necrosis factor receptor family members 7 and 17. No differences in promoter methylation were seen between ICF and normal LCLs for three ICF upregulated genes and one downregulated gene by a quantitative methylation assay [combined bisulfite restriction analysis (COBRA)]. Our data suggest that DNMT3B mutations in the ICF syndrome cause lymphogenesis-associated gene dysregulation by indirect effects on gene expression that interfere with normal lymphocyte signaling, maturation and migration.

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