UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Vitamin C induces specific demethylation of H3K9me2 in mouse embryonic stem cells via Kdm3a/b Ebata, Kevin T; Mesh, Kathryn; Liu, Shichong; Bilenky, Misha; Fekete, Alexander; Acker, Michael G; Hirst, Martin; Garcia, Benjamin A; Ramalho-Santos, Miguel


Background: Histone methylation patterns regulate gene expression and are highly dynamic during development. The erasure of histone methylation is carried out by histone demethylase enzymes. We had previously shown that vitamin C enhances the activity of Tet enzymes in embryonic stem (ES) cells, leading to DNA demethylation and activation of germline genes. Results: We report here that vitamin C induces a remarkably specific demethylation of histone H3 lysine 9 dimethylation (H3K9me2) in naïve ES cells. Vitamin C treatment reduces global levels of H3K9me2, but not other histone methylation marks analyzed, as measured by western blot, immunofluorescence and mass spectrometry. Vitamin C leads to widespread loss of H3K9me2 at large chromosomal domains as well as gene promoters and repeat elements. Vitamin C-induced loss of H3K9me2 occurs rapidly within 24 h and is reversible. Importantly, we found that the histone demethylases Kdm3a and Kdm3b are required for vitamin C-induced demethylation of H3K9me2. Moreover, we show that vitamin C-induced Kdm3a/b-mediated H3K9me2 demethylation and Tet-mediated DNA demethylation are independent processes at specific loci. Lastly, we document Kdm3a/b are partially required for the upregulation of germline genes by vitamin C. Conclusions: These results reveal a specific role for vitamin C in histone demethylation in ES cells and document that DNA methylation and H3K9me2 cooperate to silence germline genes in pluripotent cells.

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