Targeting DNA methylation depletes uterine leiomyoma stem cell-enriched population by stimulatingtheir differentiation

Shimeng Liu, Ping Yin, Jingting Xu, Ariel J. Dotts, Stacy A. Kujawa, John S.V. Coon, Hong Zhao, Ali Shilatifard, Yang Dai, Serdar E. Bulun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Uterine leiomyoma (LM) is the most common tumor in women and can cause severe morbidity. Leiomyoma growth requires the maintenance and proliferation of a stem cell population. Dysregulated deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) methylation has been reported in LM, but its role in LM stem cell regulation remains unclear. Here, we fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS)-sorted cells from human LM tissues into 3 populations: LM stem cell-like cells (LSC, 5%), LM intermediate cells (LIC, 7%), and differentiated LM cells (LDC, 88%), and we analyzed the transcriptome and epigenetic landscape of LM cells at different differentiation stages. Leiomyoma stem cell-like cells harbored a unique methylome, with 8862 differentially methylated regions compared to LIC and 9444 compared to LDC, most of which were hypermethylated. Consistent with global hypermethylation, transcript levels of TET1 and TET3 methylcytosine dioxygenases were lower in LSC. Integrative analyses revealed an inverse relationship between methylation and gene expression changes during LSC differentiation. In LSC, hypermethylation suppressed the genes important for myometrium- and LM-associated functions, including muscle contraction and hormone action, to maintain stemness. The hypomethylating drug, 5′-Aza, stimulated LSC differentiation, depleting the stem cell population and inhibiting tumor initiation. Our data suggest that DNA methylation maintains the pool of LSC, which is critical for the regeneration of LM tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEndocrinology (United States)
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • DNA methylation
  • Stem cell differentiation
  • Uterine leiomyoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology

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