Congratulation to Ralf Gilsbach et al. from the Hein group for their great new paper entiteled Distinct epigenetic programs regulate cardiac myocyte development and disease in the human heart in vivo.
Epigenetic mechanisms and transcription factor networks essential for differentiation of cardiac myocytes have been uncovered. However, reshaping of the epigenome of these terminally differentiated cells during fetal development, postnatal maturation, and in disease remains unknown. Here, we investigate the dynamics of the cardiac myocyte epigenome during development and in chronic heart failure. We find that prenatal development and postnatal maturation are characterized by a cooperation of active CpG methylation and histone marks at cis-regulatory and genic regions to shape the cardiac myocyte transcriptome. In contrast, pathological gene expression in terminal heart failure is accompanied by changes in active histone marks without major alterations in CpG methylation and repressive chromatin marks. Notably, cis-regulatory regions in cardiac myocytes are significantly enriched for cardiovascular disease-associated variants. This study uncovers distinct layers of epigenetic regulation not only during prenatal development and postnatal maturation but also in diseased human cardiac myocytes.