Methylated DNA Immunoprecipitation - Downstream Bioinformatics Analysis

Downstream Bioinformatics Analysis

The DNA methylation level estimations can be confounded by varying densities of methylated CpG sites across the genome when observing data generated by MeDIP. This can be problematic for analyzing CpG-poor (lower density) regions. One reason for this density issue is its effect on the efficiency of immunoprecipitation. In their study, Down et al. developed a tool to estimate absolute methylation levels from data generated by MeDIP by modeling the density of methylated CpG sites. This tool is called Bayesian tool for methylation analysis (Batman). The study reports the coverage of ~90% of all CpG sites in promoters, gene-coding regions, islands, and regulatory elements where methylation levels can be estimated; this is almost 20 times better coverage than any previous methods.

Studies using MeDIP-seq or MeDIP-chip are both genome-wide approaches that have the common aim of obtaining the functional mapping of the methylome. Once regions of DNA methylation are identified, a number of bioinformatics analyses can be applied to answer certain biological questions. One obvious step is to investigate genes contained in these regions and investigate the functional significance of their repression. For example, silencing of tumour-suppressor genes in cancer can be attributed to DNA methylation. By identifying mutational events leading to hypermethylation and subsequent repression of known tumour-suppressor genes, one can more specifically characterize the contributing factors to the cause of the disease. Alternatively, one can identify genes that are known to be normally methylated but, as a result of some mutation event, is no longer silenced.

Also, one can try and investigate and identify whether some epigenetic regulator has been affected such as DNA methyltransferase (DNMT); in these cases, enrichment may be more limited.

Gene-set analysis (for example using tools like DAVID and GoSeq) has been shown to be severely baised when applied to high-throughput methylation data (e.g. MeDIP-seq and MeDIP-ChIP); it has been suggested that this can be corrected using sample label permutations or using a statistical model to control for differences in the numberes of CpG probes / CpG sites that target each gene.

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