American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
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DNA methylation, a critical epigenetic mechanism, plays an important role in governing gene expressions during biological processes such as aging, which is well known to be accelerated in hyperglycemia (diabetes). In the present study, we investigated the effects of glucose on whole genome DNA methylation in small [human retinal microvascular endothelial cells (HRECs)] and large [human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs)] vessel endothelial cell (EC) lines exposed to basal or high glucose-containing media for variable lengths of time. Using the Infinium EPIC array, we obtained 773,133 CpG sites (probes) for analysis. Unsupervised clustering of the top 5% probes identified four distinct clusters within EC groups, with significant methylation differences attributed to EC types and the duration of cell culture rather than glucose stimuli alone. When comparing the ECs incubated for 2 days versus 7 days, hierarchical clustering analyses [methylation change >10% and false discovery rate (FDR) <0.05] identified 17,354 and 128 differentially methylated CpGs for HUVECs and HRECs, respectively. Predominant DNA hypermethylation was associated with the length of culture and was enriched for gene enhancer elements and regions surrounding CpG shores and shelves. We identified 88 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) for HUVECs and 8 DMRs for HRECs (all FDR <0.05). Pathway enrichment analyses of DMRs highlighted involvement of regulators of embryonic development (i.e., HOX genes) and cellular differentiation [transforming growth factor- (TGF-) family members]. Collectively, our findings suggest that DNA methylation is a complex process that involves tightly coordinated, cell-specific mechanisms. Such changes in methylation overlap genes critical for cellular differentiation and embryonic development.