Abstract: During limb formation in vertebrates with free digits, the interdigital mesoderm is eliminated by a massive degeneration process that involves apoptosis and cell senescence. The degradation process is preceded by intense DNA damage in zones located close to methylated DNA, accompanied by the activation of the DNA repair response. In this study, we show that trimethylated histone 3 (H3K4me3, H3K9me3, and H3K27me3) overlaps with zones positive for 5mC in the nuclei of interdigital cells. This pattern contrasts with the widespread distribution of acetylated histones (H3K9ac and H4ac) and the histone variant H3.3 throughout the nucleoplasm. Consistent with the intense labeling of acetylated histones, the histone deacetylase genes Hdac1, Hdac2, Hdac3, and Hdac8, and at a more reduced level, Hdac10, are expressed in the interdigits. Furthermore, local treatments with the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A, which promotes an open chromatin state, induces massive cell death and transcriptional changes reminiscent of, but preceding, the physiological process of interdigit remodeling. Together, these findings suggest that the epigenetic profile of the interdigital mesoderm contributes to the sensitivity to DNA damage that precedes apoptosis during tissue regression.
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