Research Article

Position effect variegation and epigenetic modification of a transgene in a pig model

Published: February 16, 2012
Genet. Mol. Res. 11 (1) : 355-369 DOI: 10.4238/2012.February.16.1

Abstract

Sequences proximal to transgene integration sites are able to regulate transgene expression, resulting in complex position effect variegation. Position effect variegation can cause differences in epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation and histone acetylation. However, it is not known which factor, position effect or epigenetic modification, plays a more important role in the regulation of transgene expression. We analyzed transgene expression patterns and epigenetic modifications of transgenic pigs expressing green fluorescent protein, driven by the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter. DNA hypermethylation and loss of acetylation of specific histone H3 and H4 lysines, except H4K16 acetylation in the CMV promoter, were consistent with a low level of transgene expression. Moreover, the degree of DNA methylation and histone H3/H4 acetylation in the promoter region depended on the integration site; consequently, position effect variegation caused variations in epigenetic modifications. The transgenic pig fibroblast cell lines were treated with DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-Aza-2’-deoxycytidine and/or histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A. Transgene expression was promoted by reversing the DNA hypermethylation and histone hypoacetylation status. The differences in DNA methylation and histone acetylation in the CMV promoter region in these cell lines were not significant; however, significant differences in transgene expression were detected, demonstrating that variegation of transgene expression is affected by the integration site. We conclude that in this pig model, position effect variegation affects transgene expression.

Sequences proximal to transgene integration sites are able to regulate transgene expression, resulting in complex position effect variegation. Position effect variegation can cause differences in epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation and histone acetylation. However, it is not known which factor, position effect or epigenetic modification, plays a more important role in the regulation of transgene expression. We analyzed transgene expression patterns and epigenetic modifications of transgenic pigs expressing green fluorescent protein, driven by the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter. DNA hypermethylation and loss of acetylation of specific histone H3 and H4 lysines, except H4K16 acetylation in the CMV promoter, were consistent with a low level of transgene expression. Moreover, the degree of DNA methylation and histone H3/H4 acetylation in the promoter region depended on the integration site; consequently, position effect variegation caused variations in epigenetic modifications. The transgenic pig fibroblast cell lines were treated with DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-Aza-2’-deoxycytidine and/or histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A. Transgene expression was promoted by reversing the DNA hypermethylation and histone hypoacetylation status. The differences in DNA methylation and histone acetylation in the CMV promoter region in these cell lines were not significant; however, significant differences in transgene expression were detected, demonstrating that variegation of transgene expression is affected by the integration site. We conclude that in this pig model, position effect variegation affects transgene expression.