DNA Methylation Landscapes of Human Fetal Development

Roderick C Slieker, Matthias S Roost, Liesbeth van Iperen, H Eka D Suchiman, Elmar W Tobi, Françoise Carlotti, Eelco J P de Koning, P Eline Slagboom, Bastiaan T Heijmans, Susana M Chuva de Sousa Lopes

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Remodelling the methylome is a hallmark of mammalian development and cell differentiation. However, current knowledge of DNA methylation dynamics in human tissue specification and organ development largely stems from the extrapolation of studies in vitro and animal models. Here, we report on the DNA methylation landscape using the 450k array of four human tissues (amnion, muscle, adrenal and pancreas) during the first and second trimester of gestation (9,18 and 22 weeks). We show that a tissue-specific signature, constituted by tissue-specific hypomethylated CpG sites, was already present at 9 weeks of gestation (W9). Furthermore, we report large-scale remodelling of DNA methylation from W9 to W22. Gain of DNA methylation preferentially occurred near genes involved in general developmental processes, whereas loss of DNA methylation mapped to genes with tissue-specific functions. Dynamic DNA methylation was associated with enhancers, but not promoters. Comparison of our data with external fetal adrenal, brain and liver revealed striking similarities in the trajectory of DNA methylation during fetal development. The analysis of gene expression data indicated that dynamic DNA methylation was associated with the progressive repression of developmental programs and the activation of genes involved in tissue-specific processes. The DNA methylation landscape of human fetal development provides insight into regulatory elements that guide tissue specification and lead to organ functionality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1005583
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


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