Understanding the mechanisms regulating expression of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) specific and axon-guidance genes during development and in retinal stem cells will be critical for successful optic nerve regeneration. Müller glia have some characteristics of retinal stem cells but in mammals have demonstrated limited potential to differentiate into RGCs. Chromatin remodeling through histone deacetylation and DNA methylation are a potential mechanism for silencing genes necessary for neuronal differentiation of glial cells. We investigated DNA methylation as a mechanism for regulating expression of mouse EphA5, one member of a large family of ephrin receptor genes that regulate patterning of the topographic connections of RGCs during visual system development. We analyzed spatial and age-related patterns of EphA5 promoter methylation by bisulfite sequencing and mRNA expression by quantitative RT-PCR in the mouse retina. The CpG island in the EphA5 promoter was hypomethylated in the retina and showed no change in overall methylation with age, despite a decline in EphA5 mRNA expression levels in the adult retina. In the nasal retina of post-natal day 0 mice, there was a modest, but statistically significant increase in methylation. Increased methylation corresponded with lower levels of receptor mRNA expression in the nasal retina. We cloned the EphA5 promoter and found that site-specific differences in methylation could preferentially activate or repress promoter activity in transient transfections of rat retinal progenitor cells (R28) using luciferase assays. In sphere cultures generated by EGF/FGF2 stimulation of conditionally immortalized mouse Müller glia (ImM10), EphA5 promoter was hypermethylated and EphA5 mRNA was not detected. Demethylation using 5-azadeoxycytidine (AzadC) resulted in a significant decrease of methylation of the EphA5 promoter and re-expression of the EphA5 mRNA. The inverse relationship between EphA5 promoter methylation and mRNA expression is consistent with a role for DNA methylation in modulating the spatial patterns of EphA5 gene expression in the retina and in silencing EphA5 expression in ImM10 cells. The robust up-regulation of EphA5 in ImM10 cells following demethylation suggests that modulation of chromatin structure may be a useful approach for promoting expression of silenced developmental genes and increasing the neurogenic potential of Müller glia. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
Petkova, T. D., Seigel, G. M., & Otteson, D. C. (2011). A role for DNA methylation in regulation of EphA5 receptor expression in the mouse retina. Vision Research, 51(2), 260–268. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.visres.2010.09.022