Nuclear organization during hepatogenesis in zebrafish requires uhrf1

Bhavani P. Madakashira, Chi Zhang, Filippo Macchi, Elena Magnani, Kirsten C. Sadler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acquisition of cellular fate during development is initiated and maintained by well‐coordinated patterns of gene expression that are dictated by the epigenetic landscape and genome organization in the nucleus. While the epigenetic marks that mediate developmental gene expression patterns during organogenesis have been well studied, less is known about how epigenetic marks influence nuclear organization during development. This study examines the relationship between nuclear structure, chromatin accessibility, DNA methylation, and gene expression during hepatic outgrowth in zebrafish larvae. We investigate the relationship between these features using mutants that lack DNA methylation. Hepatocyte nuclear morphology was established coincident with hepatocyte differentiation at 80 h post‐fertilization (hpf), and nuclear shape and size continued to change until the conclusion of outgrowth and morphogenesis at 120 hpf. Integrating ATAC‐Seq analysis with DNA methylation profiling of zebrafish livers at 120 hpf showed that closed and highly methylated chromatin occupies most transposable elements and that open chromatin correlated with gene expression. DNA hypomethylation, due to mutation of genes encoding ubiquitinlike, containing PHD and RING Finger Domains 1 (uhrf1) and DNA methyltransferase (dnmt1), did not block hepatocyte differentiation, but had dramatic effects on nuclear organization. Hepatocytes in uhrf1 mutants have large, deformed nuclei with multiple nucleoli, downregulation of nucleolar genes, and a complete lack of the nuclear lamina. Loss of lamin B2 staining was phenocopied by dnmt1 mutation. Together, these data show that hepatocyte nuclear morphogenesis coincides with organ morphogenesis and outgrowth, and that DNA methylation directs chromatin organization, and, in turn, hepatocyte nuclear shape and size during liver development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1081
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • DNA methylation
  • Liver development
  • Nuclear organization
  • Nuclear structure
  • Organogenesis
  • Uhrf1
  • Zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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