Reduced Syncytin-1 Expression Levels in Placental Syndromes Correlates with Epigenetic Hypermethylation of the ERVW-1 Promoter Region

Ruebner, Matthias; Strissel, Pamela L.; Ekici, Arif B.; Stiegler, Elisabeth; Dammer, Ulf; Goecke, Tamme W.; Faschingbauer, Florian; Fahlbusch, Fabian B.; Beckmann, Matthias W.; Strick, Reiner
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Terminal differentiation of villous cytotrophoblasts (CT) ends in formation of the multinucleated syncytiotrophoblast representing the fetal-maternal interface. Aberrations during this cell-fusion process are associated with Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), Preeclampsia (PE) and High Elevated Liver and Low Platelets (HELLP) Syndrome. Syncytin-1, the envelope gene of the human Endogenous Retrovirus ERVW-1, is one of the most important genes involved in cell-fusion and showed decreased gene expression during these pathological pregnancies. The aim of this study was to determine the methylation pattern of the entire promoter of ERVW-1 and to correlate these findings with the expression profile of Syncytin-1 in the placental syndromes. 14 isolated villous cytotrophoblasts from control (n = 3), IUGR (n = 3), PE (n = 3), PE/IUGR (n = 3) and HELLP/IUGR (n = 2) placentae were used to determine the mean methylation level (ML) for the ERVW-1 promoter region. ML rose significantly from 29% in control CTs to 49% in IUGR, 53% in PE, 47% in PE/IUGR and 64% in HELLP/IUGR indicating an epigenetic down-regulation of Syncytin-1 by promoter hypermethylation. DNA demethylation of the trophoblast like cell lines BeWo, JEG-3 and JAR with 5-AZA-2′desoxycytidine (AZA) showed an increased Syncytin-1 expression and fusion ability in all cell lines. Promoter activity of the 5′LTR could be inhibited by hypermethylation 42-fold using a luciferase based reporter-gene assay. Finally overexpression of the methyltransferases DNMT3a and LSH could be responsible for a decreased Syncytin-1 expression by promoter hypermethylation of ERVW-1. Our study linked decreased Syncytin-1 expression to an epigenetic hypermethylation of the entire promoter of ERVW-1. Based on our findings we are predicting a broad aberrant epigenetic DNA-methylation pattern in pathological placentae affecting placentogenesis, but also the development of the fetus and the mother during pregnancy.


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