BACKGROUND: Hematopoietic stem cell renewal and differentiation are regulated through epigenetic processes. The conversion of 5-methylcytosine into 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) by ten-eleven-translocation enzymes provides new insights into the epigenetic regulation of gene expression during development. Here, we studied the potential gene regulatory role of 5hmC during human hematopoiesis.
RESULTS: We used reduced representation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine profiling (RRHP) to characterize 5hmC distribution in CD34+ cells, CD4+ T cells, CD19+ B cells, CD14+ monocytes and granulocytes. In all analyzed blood cell types, the presence of 5hmC at gene bodies correlates positively with gene expression, and highest 5hmC levels are found around transcription start sites of highly expressed genes. In CD34+ cells, 5hmC primes for the expression of genes regulating myeloid and lymphoid lineage commitment. Throughout blood cell differentiation, intragenic 5hmC is maintained at genes that are highly expressed and required for acquisition of the mature blood cell phenotype. Moreover, in CD34+ cells, the presence of 5hmC at enhancers associates with increased binding of RUNX1 and FLI1, transcription factors essential for hematopoiesis.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides a comprehensive genome-wide overview of 5hmC distribution in human hematopoietic cells and new insights into the epigenetic regulation of gene expression during human hematopoiesis.