Human embryonic stem (hES) cells originate during an embryonic period of active epigenetic remodeling. DNA methylation patterns are likely to be critical for their self-renewal and pluripotence. We compared the DNA methylation status of 1536 CpG sites (from 371 genes) in 14 independently isolated hES cell lines with five other cell types: 24 cancer cell lines, four adult stem cell populations, four lymphoblastoid cell lines, five normal human tissues, and an embryonal carcinoma cell line. We found that the DNA methylation profile clearly distinguished the hES cells from all of the other cell types. A subset of 49 CpG sites from 40 genes contributed most to the differences among cell types. Another set of 25 sites from 23 genes distinguished hES cells from normal differentiated cells and can be used as biomarkers to monitor differentiation. Our results indicate that hES cells have a unique epigenetic signature that may contribute to their developmental potential.
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