Early in vitro differentiation of mouse definitive endoderm is not correlated with progressive maturation of nuclear DNA methylation patterns

Jian Tajbakhsh, Arkadiusz Gertych, W. Samuel Fagg, Seigo Hatada, Jeffrey H. Fair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The genome organization in pluripotent cells undergoing the first steps of differentiation is highly relevant to the reprogramming process in differentiation. Considering this fact, chromatin texture patterns that identify cells at the very early stage of lineage commitment could serve as valuable tools in the selection of optimal cell phenotypes for regenerative medicine applications. Here we report on the first-time use of high-resolution three-dimensional fluorescence imaging and comprehensive topological cell-by-cell analyses with a novel image-cytometrical approach towards the identification of in situ global nuclear DNA methylation patterns in early endodermal differentiation of mouse ES cells (up to day 6), and the correlations of these patterns with a set of putative markers for pluripotency and endodermal commitment, and the epithelial and mesenchymal character of cells. Utilizing this in vitro cell system as a model for assessing the relationship between differentiation and nuclear DNA methylation patterns, we found that differentiating cell populations display an increasing number of cells with a gain in DNA methylation load: first within their euchromatin, then extending into heterochromatic areas of the nucleus, which also results in significant changes of methylcytosine/global DNA codistribution patterns. We were also able to co-visualize and quantify the concomitant stochastic marker expression on a per-cell basis, for which we did not measure any correlation to methylcytosine loads or distribution patterns. We observe that the progression of global DNA methylation is not correlated with the standard transcription factors associated with endodermal development. Further studies are needed to determine whether the progression of global methylation could represent a useful signature of cellular differentiation. This concept of tracking epigenetic progression may prove useful in the selection of cell phenotypes for future regenerative medicine applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere21861
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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