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Clostridioides difficile is a leading cause of health care-associated infections. Although significant progress has been made in the understanding of its genome, the epigenome of C. difficile and its functional impact has not been systematically explored. Here, we performed the first comprehensive DNA methylome analysis of C. difficile using 36 human isolates and observed great epigenomic diversity. We discovered an orphan DNA methyltransferase with a well-defined specificity whose corresponding gene is highly conserved across our dataset and in all ~300 global C. difficile genomes examined. Inactivation of the methyltransferase gene negatively impacted sporulation, a key step in C. difficile disease transmission, consistently supported by multi-omics data, genetic experiments, and a mouse colonization model. Further experimental and transcriptomic analysis also suggested that epigenetic regulation is associated with cell length, biofilm formation, and host colonization. These findings open up a new epigenetic dimension to characterize medically relevant biological processes in this critical pathogen. This work also provides a set of methods for comparative epigenomics and integrative analysis, which we expect to be broadly applicable to bacterial epigenomics studies.

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