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  1. Abstract

    High-throughput third-generation nanopore sequencing devices have enormous potential for simultaneously observing epigenetic modifications in human cells over large regions of the genome. However, signals generated by these devices are subject to considerable noise that can lead to unsatisfactory detection performance and hamper downstream analysis. Here we develop a statistical method, CpelNano, for the quantification and analysis of 5mC methylation landscapes using nanopore data. CpelNano takes into account nanopore noise by means of a hidden Markov model (HMM) in which the true but unknown (“hidden”) methylation state is modeled through an Ising probability distribution that is consistent with methylation means and pairwise correlations, whereas nanopore current signals constitute the observed state. It then estimates the associated methylation potential energy function by employing the expectation-maximization (EM) algorithm and performs differential methylation analysis via permutation-based hypothesis testing. Using simulations and analysis of published data obtained from three human cell lines (GM12878, MCF-10A, and MDA-MB-231), we show that CpelNano can faithfully estimate DNA methylation potential energy landscapes, substantially improving current methods and leading to a powerful tool for the modeling and analysis of epigenetic landscapes using nanopore sequencing data.

  2. Abstract

    Eukaryotic genome and methylome encode DNA fragments’ propensity to form nucleosome particles. Although the mechanical properties of DNA possibly orchestrate such encoding, the definite link between ‘omics’ and DNA energetics has remained elusive. Here, we bridge the divide by examining the sequence-dependent energetics of highly bent DNA. Molecular dynamics simulations of 42 intact DNA minicircles reveal that each DNA minicircle undergoes inside-out conformational transitions with the most likely configuration uniquely prescribed by the nucleotide sequence and methylation of DNA. The minicircles’ local geometry consists of straight segments connected by sharp bends compressing the DNA’s inward-facing major groove. Such an uneven distribution of the bending stress favors minimum free energy configurations that avoid stiff base pair sequences at inward-facing major grooves. Analysis of the minicircles’ inside-out free energy landscapes yields a discrete worm-like chain model of bent DNA energetics that accurately account for its nucleotide sequence and methylation. Experimentally measuring the dependence of the DNA looping time on the DNA sequence validates the model. When applied to a nucleosome-like DNA configuration, the model quantitatively reproduces yeast and human genomes’ nucleosome occupancy. Further analyses of the genome-wide chromatin structure data suggest that DNA bending energetics is a fundamental determinant of genomemore »architecture.

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  3. Abstract Background Efforts to understand genetic variability involved in an individual’s susceptibility to chronic pain support a role for upstream regulation by epigenetic mechanisms. Methods To examine the transcriptomic and epigenetic basis of chronic pain that resides in the peripheral nervous system, we used RNA-seq and ATAC-seq of the rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) to identify novel molecular pathways associated with pain hypersensitivity in two well-studied persistent pain models induced by chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve and intra-plantar injection of complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) in rats. Results Our RNA-seq studies identify a variety of biological process related to synapse organization, membrane potential, transmembrane transport, and ion binding. Interestingly, genes that encode transcriptional regulators were disproportionately downregulated in both models. Our ATAC-seq data provide a comprehensive map of chromatin accessibility changes in the DRG. A total of 1123 regions showed changes in chromatin accessibility in one or both models when compared to the naïve and 31 shared differentially accessible regions (DAR)s. Functional annotation of the DARs identified disparate molecular functions enriched for each pain model which suggests that chromatin structure may be altered differently following sciatic nerve injury and hind paw inflammation. Motif analysis identified 17 DNA sequencesmore »known to bind transcription factors in the CCI DARs and 33 in the CFA DARs. Two motifs were significantly enriched in both models. Conclusions Our improved understanding of the changes in chromatin accessibility that occur in chronic pain states may identify regulatory genomic elements that play essential roles in modulating gene expression in the DRG.« less
  4. Abstract Background DNA methylation dynamics in the brain are associated with normal development and neuropsychiatric disease and differ across functionally distinct brain regions. Previous studies of genome-wide methylation differences among human brain regions focus on limited numbers of individuals and one to two brain regions. Results Using GTEx samples, we generate a resource of DNA methylation in purified neuronal nuclei from 8 brain regions as well as lung and thyroid tissues from 12 to 23 donors. We identify differentially methylated regions between brain regions among neuronal nuclei in both CpG (181,146) and non-CpG (264,868) contexts, few of which were unique to a single pairwise comparison. This significantly expands the knowledge of differential methylation across the brain by 10-fold. In addition, we present the first differential methylation analysis among neuronal nuclei from basal ganglia tissues and identify unique CpG differentially methylated regions, many associated with ion transport. We also identify 81,130 regions of variably CpG methylated regions, i.e., variable methylation among individuals in the same brain region, which are enriched in regulatory regions and in CpG differentially methylated regions. Many variably methylated regions are unique to a specific brain region, with only 202 common across all brain regions, as well asmore »lung and thyroid. Variably methylated regions identified in the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and hippocampus are enriched for heritability of schizophrenia. Conclusions These data suggest that epigenetic variation in these particular human brain regions could be associated with the risk for this neuropsychiatric disorder.« less
  5. Abstract Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are widely utilized for transcriptional repression in eukaryotes. Here, we characterize, in the protist Tetrahymena thermophila, the EZL1 (E(z)-like 1) complex, with components conserved in metazoan Polycomb Repressive Complexes 1 and 2 (PRC1 and PRC2). The EZL1 complex is required for histone H3 K27 and K9 methylation, heterochromatin formation, transposable element control, and programmed genome rearrangement. The EZL1 complex interacts with EMA1, a helicase required for RNA interference (RNAi). This interaction is implicated in co-transcriptional recruitment of the EZL1 complex. Binding of H3K27 and H3K9 methylation by PDD1—another PcG protein interacting with the EZL1 complex—reinforces its chromatin association. The EZL1 complex is an integral part of Polycomb bodies, which exhibit dynamic distribution in Tetrahymena development: Their dispersion is driven by chromatin association, while their coalescence by PDD1, likely via phase separation. Our results provide a molecular mechanism connecting RNAi and Polycomb repression, which coordinately regulate nuclear bodies and reorganize the genome.
  6. Abstract In heterozygous genomes, allele-specific measurements can reveal biologically significant differences in DNA methylation between homologous alleles associated with local changes in genetic sequence. Current approaches for detecting such events from whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) data perform statistically independent marginal analysis at individual cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) sites, thus ignoring correlations in the methylation state, or carry-out a joint statistical analysis of methylation patterns at four CpG sites producing unreliable statistical evidence. Here, we employ the one-dimensional Ising model of statistical physics and develop a method for detecting allele-specific methylation (ASM) events within segments of DNA containing clusters of linked single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), called haplotypes. Comparisons with existing approaches using simulated and real WGBS data show that our method provides an improved fit to data, especially when considering large haplotypes. Importantly, the method employs robust hypothesis testing for detecting statistically significant imbalances in mean methylation level and methylation entropy, as well as for identifying haplotypes for which the genetic variant carries significant information about the methylation state. As such, our ASM analysis approach can potentially lead to biological discoveries with important implications for the genetics of complex human diseases.
  7. CRISPR-Cas systems provide versatile tools for programmable genome editing. Here, we developed a caged RNA strategy that allows Cas9 to bind DNA but not cleave until light-induced activation. This approach, referred to as very fast CRISPR (vfCRISPR), creates double-strand breaks (DSBs) at the submicrometer and second scales. Synchronized cleavage improved kinetic analysis of DNA repair, revealing that cells respond to Cas9-induced DSBs within minutes and can retain MRE11 after DNA ligation. Phosphorylation of H2AX after DNA damage propagated more than 100 kilobases per minute, reaching up to 30 megabases. Using single-cell fluorescence imaging, we characterized multiple cycles of 53BP1 repair foci formation and dissolution, with the first cycle taking longer than subsequent cycles and its duration modulated by inhibition of repair. Imaging-guided subcellular Cas9 activation further facilitated genomic manipulation with single-allele resolution. vfCRISPR enables DNA-repair studies at high resolution in space, time, and genomic coordinates.