Aberrant DNA modification profiles in embryonic stem cells lacking polycomb repressive complexes
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Transcriptional repression is maintained by many molecular processes, including DNA methylation and polycomb repression. These two systems are both associated with chromatin modification at the promoters of silent genes, and are both essential for mammalian development. Previous work has shown that DNMT proteins are required for correct targeting of polycomb repressive complexes (PRCs). In this thesis, I investigate whether targeting of DNA modification has a reciprocal dependence on the polycomb machinery by mapping DNA modification in wild-type and PRC-mutant ES cells (Ring1B null, EED null, and Ring1B/EED duble null). I find that the loss of PRCs results in increased DNA modification at sites normally targeted by de novo DNA methyltransferase which lose H3K4 methylation upon PRC removal. This increased DNA modificaiton is associated with increased gene expression when found at CpG island shores of genes marked by the PRC-mediated histone modifications H3K27me3 and H2AK119ub, but not genes lacking these marks. Gene misregulation may be further linked to DNA modification changes by increased DNA modification at enhancers. While loss of either Ring1B or EED led primarily to increases in DNA modification at regions dependant on DNMT3A/DNMT3B, the combined loss of Ring1B and EED results in widespread loss of DNA modification at sites more dependent on DNMT1 activity. This thesis suggests an interplay between PRCs and DNA modification placement which is relevant to the cntrol of gene expression.