Defective de novo methylation of viral and cellular DNA sequences in ICF syndrome cells

Qian Tao, He Huang, Theresa M. Geiman, Chai Yen Lim, Li Fu, Guo Hua Qiu, Keith D. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


ICF syndrome (immunodeficiency, centromere instability and facial anomalies) is a recessive human genetic disorder resulting from mutations in the DNA methyltransferase 3B (DNMT3B) gene. Patients with this disease exhibit numerous chromosomal abnormalities, including anomalous decondensation, pairing, separation and breakage, primarily involving the pericentromeric regions of chromosomes 1 and 16. Global levels of DNA methylation in ICF cells are only slightly reduced; however, certain repetitive sequences and genes on the inactive X chromosome of female ICF patients are significantly hypomethylated. In the present report, we analyze the molecular defect of de novo methylation in ICF cells in greater detail by making use of a model Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-based system and three members of the unique cellular cancer-testis (C-T) gene family. Results with the EBV-based system indicate that de novo methylation of newly introduced viral sequences is defective in ICF syndrome. Limited de novo methylation capacity is retained in ICF cells, indicating that the mutations in DNMT3B are not complete loss-of-function mutations or that other DNMTs cooperate with DNMT3B. Analysis of three C-T genes (two on the X chromosome and one autosomal) revealed that loss of methylation from cellular gene sequences is heterogeneous, with both autosomal and X chromosome-based genes demonstrating sensitivity to mutations in DNMT3B. Aberrant hypomethylation at a number of loci examined correlated with altered gene expression levels. Lastly, no consistent changes in the protein levels of the DNA methyltransferases were noted when normal and ICF cell lines were compared.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2091-2102
Number of pages12
JournalHuman molecular genetics
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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