Global DNA Methylation patterns on marsupial and devil facial tumour chromosomes

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Background: Despite DNA methylation being one of the most widely studied epigenetic modifications in eukaryotes, only a few studies have examined the global methylation status of marsupial chromosomes. The emergence of devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), a clonally transmissible cancer spreading through the Tasmanian devil population, makes it a particularly pertinent time to determine the methylation status of marsupial and devil facial tumour chromosomes. DNA methylation perturbations are known to play a role in genome instability in human tumours. One of the interesting features of the devil facial tumour is its remarkable karyotypic stability over time as only four strains with minor karyotypic differences having been reported. The cytogenetic monitoring of devil facial tumour (DFT) samples collected over an eight year period and detailed molecular cytogenetic analysis performed on the different DFT strains enables chromosome rearrangements to be correlated with methylation status as the tumour evolves. Results: We used immunofluorescent staining with an antibody to 5-methylcytosine on metaphase chromosomes prepared from fibroblast cells of three distantly related marsupials, including the Tasmanian devil, as well as DFTD chromosomes prepared from samples collected from different years and representing different karyotypic strains. Staining of chromosomes from male and female marsupial cell lines indicate species-specific differences in global methylation patterns but with the most intense staining regions corresponding to telomeric and/or centromeric regions of autosomes. In males, the X chromosome was hypermethylated as was one X in females. Similarly, telomeric regions on DFTD chromosomes and regions corresponding to material from one of the two X chromosomes were hypermethylated. No difference in global methylation in samples of the same strain taken in different years was observed. Conclusions: The methylation patterns on DFTD chromosomes suggests that the hypermethylated active X was shattered in the formation of the tumour chromosomes, with atypical areas of methylation on DFTD chromosomes corresponding to locations of X chromosome material from the shattered X. The incredibly stable broad methylation patterns observed between strains and over time may reflect the overall genomic stability of the devil facial tumour.
Original languageEnglish
Article number74
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Cytogenetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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