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Identification of DNA motifs that regulate DNA methylation

By Mengchi Wang, Kai Zhang, Vu Ngo, Chengyu Liu, Shicai Fan, John W Whitaker, Yue Chen, Rizi Ai, Zhao Chen, Xiao-han Wang, Lina Zheng, Wei Wang

Posted 11 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/573352 (published DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkz483)

DNA methylation is an important epigenetic mark but how its locus-specificity is decided in relation to DNA sequence is not fully understood. Here, we have analyzed 34 diverse whole-genome bisulfite sequencing datasets in human and identified 313 motifs, including 92 and 221 associated with methylation (methylation motifs, MMs) and unmethylation (unmethylation motifs, UMs), respectively. The functionality of these motifs is supported by multiple lines of evidences. First, the methylation levels at the MM and UM motifs are respectively higher and lower than the genomic background. Second, these motifs are enriched at the binding sites of methylation modifying enzymes including DNMT3A and TET1, indicating their possible roles of recruiting these enzymes. Third, these motifs significantly overlap with SNPs associated with gene expression and those with DNA methylation. Fourth, disruption of these motifs by SNPs is associated with significantly altered methylation level of the CpGs in the neighbor regions. Furthermore, these motifs together with somatic SNPs are predictive of cancer subtypes and patient survival. We revealed some of these motifs were also associated with histone modifications, suggesting possible interplay between the two types of epigenetic modifications. We also found some motifs form feed forward loops to contribute to DNA methylation dynamics.

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