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  1. Abstract

    Epigenetic information defines tissue identity and is largely inherited in development through DNA methylation. While studied mostly for mean differences, methylation also encodes stochastic change, defined as entropy in information theory. Analyzing allele-specific methylation in 49 human tissue sample datasets, we find that methylation entropy is associated with specific DNA binding motifs, regulatory DNA, and CpG density. Then applying information theory to 42 mouse embryo methylation datasets, we find that the contribution of methylation entropy to time- and tissue-specific patterns of development is comparable to the contribution of methylation mean, and methylation entropy is associated with sequence and chromatin features conserved with human. Moreover, methylation entropy is directly related to gene expression variability in development, suggesting a role for epigenetic entropy in developmental plasticity.

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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 genome architecture.

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  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 7, 2024
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 6, 2024
  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 9, 2024
  7. 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 sequences 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. 
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  8. 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 as 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. 
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  9. 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. 
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