Modifications of H3K4 methylation levels are associated with DNA hypermethylation in acute myeloid leukemia

Stefania Scalea, Carmen Maresca, Caterina Catalanotto, Rachele Marino, Carlo Cogoni, Anna Reale, Michele Zampieri, Giuseppe Zardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ‘instructive model’ of aberrant DNA methylation in human tumors is based on the observation that CpG islands prone to hypermethylation in cancers are embedded in chromatin enriched in H3K27me3 in human embryonic stem cells (hESC). Recent studies also link methylation of CpG islands to the methylation status of H3K4, where H3K4me3 is inversely correlated with DNA methylation. To provide insight into these conflicting findings, we generated DNA methylation profiles for acute myeloid leukemia samples from patients and leukemic cell lines and integrated them with publicly available ChIp-seq data, containing H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 CpG island occupation in hESC, or hematopoietic stem or progenitor cells (hHSC/MPP). Hypermethylated CpG islands in AML samples displayed H3K27me3 enrichments in hESC and hHSC/MPP; however, ChIp analysis of specific hypermethylated CpG islands revealed a significant reduction in H3K4me3 signal with a concomitant increase in H3K4me0 levels as opposed to a nonsignificant increase in H3K27me3 marks. The integration of AML DNA methylation profiles with the ChIp-seq data in hESC and hHSC/MPP also led to the identification of Iroquois homeobox 2 (IRX2) as a previously unknown factor promoting differentiation of leukemic cells. Our results indicate that in contrast to the ‘instructive model’, H3K4me3 levels are strongly associated with DNA methylation patterns in AML and have a role in the regulation of critical genes, such as the putative tumor suppressor IRX2.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFEBS Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • DNA methylation
  • histone modifications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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