IgAN (IgA nephropathy) is the most common form of primary glomerulonephritis worldwide and has a strong genetic component. In this setting, DNA methylation could also be an important factor influencing this disease. We performed a genome-wide screening for DNA methylation in CD4+ T-cells from IgAN patients and found three regions aberrantly methylated influencing genes involved in the response and proliferation of CD4+ T-cells. Two hypomethylated regions codified genes involved in TCR (T-cell receptor) signalling, TRIM27 (tripartite motif-containing 27) and DUSP3 (dual-specificity phosphatase 3), and an hypermethylated region included the VTRNA2-1 (vault RNA 2-1) non-coding RNA, also known as miR-886 precursor. We showed that the aberrant methylation influences the expression of these genes in IgAN patients. Moreover, we demonstrated that the hypermethylation of the miR-886 precursor led to a decreased CD4+ T-cell proliferation following TCR stimulation and to the overexpression of TGFβ (transforming growth factor β). Finally, we found a Th1/Th2 imbalance in IgAN patients. The IL (interleukin)-2/IL-5 ratio was notably higher in IgAN patients and clearly indicated a Th1 shift. In conclusion, we identified for the first time some specific DNA regions abnormally methylated in IgAN patients that led to the reduced TCR signal strength of the CD4+ T-cells and to their anomalous response and activation that could explain the T-helper cell imbalance. The present study reveals new molecular mechanisms underlying the abnormal CD4+ T-cell response in IgAN patients.

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