The differentiation of human macrophages is accompanied by distinctive phenotypical changes and generally proceeds in the absence of proliferation. The molecular events governing this process are still poorly understood. Using ChIP-Seq technology we studied epigenetic changes as well as alterations in transcription factor occupancy during human monocyte differentiation and correlated these events with gene expression levels in hematopoietic cell types. We show that putative enhancer regions marked by histone H3 lysine4 monomethylation (H3K4me1) at different developmental stages (human progenitor cells, peripheral blood monocytes and in vitro differentiated macrophages) are enriched in distinct sets of transcription factor motifs corresponding to lineage-determining factors. Cell stage-specific histone methylation at promoter-distal sites corresponds with increased mRNA expression levels of neighboring genes. We generated global DNA-binding maps in monocytes and macrophages for two transcription factors (PU.1 and C/EBPβ) with a well established role in monocyte/macrophage differentiation. Comparison of human binding sites with corresponding mouse data revealed a surprisingly low level of conservation (∼10-15%) of PU.1-or C/EBPβ -bound sites between man and mouse, despite a highly conserved binding preference for both transcription factors. During monocytic differentiation, human macrophages primarily gained additional binding sites for both transcription factors (as well as promoter-distal H3K4me1). Interestingly, only neighboring genes with multiple binding events showed significantly increased, macrophage-specific mRNA expression as compared to monocytic as well as lymphocytic cell types. Human macrophage-specific H3K4me1-marked regions as well as macrophage-specific PU.1- and C/EBP-bound sites were characterized by overlapping sets of novel sequence motifs, suggesting that the combinatorial interaction of corresponding DNA-binding factors with PU.1 and C/EBPβ may be required for the establishment of human macrophage-specific enhancers. These data provide novel insights into PU.1 and C/EBPβ mediated gene regulation during human macrophage differentiation.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.