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Deciphering a methylome: what can we read into patterns of DNA methylation?

J Exp Biol. 2011 Oct 1;214(Pt 19):3155-63

Authors: Flores KB, Amdam GV

The methylation of cytosines within cytosine-guanine (CG) dinucleotides is an epigenetic mark that can modify gene transcription. With the advent of high-throughput sequencing, it is possible to map methylomes, i.e. detect methylated CGs on a genome-wide scale. The methylomes sequenced to date reveal a divergence in prevalence and targeting of CG methylation between taxa, despite the conservation of the DNA methyltransferase enzymes that cause DNA methylation. Therefore, interspecific methylation usage is predicted to diverge. In various taxa, this tenet gains support from patterns of CG depletion that can be traced in DNA before methylomes are explicitly mapped. Depletion of CGs in methylated genomic regions is expected because methylated cytosines are subject to increased mutability caused by nucleotide deamination. However, the basis of diverging interspecific methylation usage is less clear. We use insights from the methylome of honeybees (Apis mellifera) to emphasize the possible importance of organismal life histories in explaining methylation usage and the accuracy of methylation prediction based on CG depletion. Interestingly, methylated genes in honeybees are more conserved across taxa than non-methylated genes despite the divergence in utilization of methylation and the increased mutability caused by deamination.

PMID: 21900463 [PubMed - in process]