Research paper identifying a crosstalk between DNA methylation and adherence junction signaling published in Communications in Biology.

8. März 2024

Repeat DNA methylation is modulated by adherens junction signaling

  • Lisa-Marie Brenner, 
  • Florian Meyer, 
  • Haiqian Yang, 
  • Anja R. Köhler, 
  • Pavel Bashtrykov, 
  • Ming Guo, 
  • Albert Jeltsch, 
  • Cristiana Lungu & 
  • Monilola A. Olayioye 


Through its involvement in gene transcription and heterochromatin formation, DNA methylation regulates how cells interact with their environment. Nevertheless, the extracellular signaling cues that modulate the distribution of this central chromatin modification are largely unclear. DNA methylation is highly abundant at repetitive elements, but its investigation in live cells has been complicated by methodological challenges. Utilizing a CRISPR/dCas9 biosensor that reads DNA methylation of human α-satellite repeats in live cells, we here uncover a signaling pathway linking the chromatin and transcriptional state of repetitive elements to epithelial adherens junction integrity. Specifically, we find that in confluent breast epithelial cell monolayers, α-satellite repeat methylation is reduced by comparison to low density cultures. This is coupled with increased transcriptional activity at repeats. Through comprehensive perturbation experiments, we identify the junctional protein E-cadherin, which links to the actin cytoskeleton, as a central molecular player for signal relay into the nucleus. Furthermore, we find that this pathway is impaired in cancer cells that lack E-cadherin and are not contact-inhibited. This suggests that the molecular connection between cell density and repetitive element methylation could play a role in the maintenance of epithelial tissue homeostasis.

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