Open Access Research article

Epigenetic changes during hematopoietic cell granulocytic differentiation – comparative analysis of primary CD34+ cells, KG1 myeloid cells and mature neutrophils

Rūta Navakauskienė12*, Veronika V Borutinskaitė1, Gražina Treigytė1, Jūratė Savickienė1, Dalius Matuzevičius34, Dalius Navakauskas4 and Karl-Eric Magnusson5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Institute of Biochemistry, Vilnius University, LT-08662 Vilnius, Lithuania

2 Department of Chemistry and Bioengineering, Faculty of Fundamental Sciences, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, LT-10223 Vilnius, Lithuania

3 Department of General Psychology, Faculty of Philosophy, Vilnius University, Universiteto st. 9/1, LT-01513 Vilnius, Lithuania

4 Electronic Systems Department, Faculty of Electronics, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, Naugarduko 41-422, LT-03227 Vilnius, Lithuania

5 Division of Medical Microbiology, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linkoping University, SE-581 85 Linkoping, Sweden

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BMC Cell Biology 2014, 15:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-15-4

Published: 20 January 2014



Epigenetic regulation is known to affect gene expression, and recent research shows that aberrant DNA methylation patterning and histone modifications may play a role in leukemogenesis. In order to highlight the co-operation of epigenetic mechanisms acting during the latter process it is important to clarify their potential as biomarkers of granulocytic differentiation.


In this study we investigated epigenetic alterations in human hematopoietic cells at a distinct differentiation stages: primary hematopoietic CD34+ cells, KG1 myeloid leukemic cells, whose development is stopped at early stage of differentiation, and mature neutrophils. We focused on the epigenetic status of cell cycle regulating (p15, p16) and differentiation related (E-cadherin and RARβ) genes. We found that the methylation level in promoter regions of some of these genes was considerably higher in KG1 cells and lower in CD34+ cells and human neutrophils. As examined and evaluated by computer-assisted methods, histone H3 and H4 modifications, i.e. H3K4Me3, H3K9Ac, H3K9Ac/S10Ph and H4 hyperAc, were similar in CD34+ cells and human mature neutrophils. By contrast, in the KG1 cells, histone H3 and H4 modifications were quite high and increased after induction of granulocytic differentiation with the HDAC inhibitor phenyl butyrate.


We found the methylation status of the examined gene promoters and histone modifications to be characteristically associated with the hematopoietic cell progenitor state, induced to differentiate myeloid KG1 cells and normal blood neutrophils. This could be achieved through epigenetic regulation of E-cadherin, p15, p16 and RARβ genes expression caused by DNA methylation/demethylation, core and linker histones distribution in stem hematopoietic cells, induced to differentiation KG1 cells and mature human neutrophils, as well as the histone modifications H3K4Me3, H3K9Ac, H3K9Ac/S10Ph and H4 hyperAc in relation to hematopoietic cell differentiation to granulocyte. These findings also suggest them as potentially important biomarkers of hematopoietic cell granulocytic differentiation and could be valuable for leukemia induced differentiation therapy.

CD34+ cells; Neutrophils; KG1 cells; Histones; Gene methylation/demethylation