Universality of the DNA methylation codes in Eucaryotes

Abstract : Genetics and epigenetics are tightly linked heritable information classes. Question arises if epigenetics provides just a set of environment dependent instructions, or whether it is integral part of an inheritance system. We argued that in the latter case the epigenetic code should share the universality quality of the genetic code. We focused on DNA methylation. Since availability of DNA methylation data is biased towards model organisms we developed a method that uses kernel density estimations of CpG observed/expected ratios to infer DNA methylation types in any genome. We show here that our method allows for robust prediction of mosaic and full gene body methylation with a PPV of 1 and 0.87, respectively. We used this prediction to complement experimental data, and applied hierarchical clustering to identify methylation types in ~150 eucaryotic species covering different body plans, reproduction types and living conditions. Our analysis indicates that there are only four gene body methylation types. These types do not follow phylogeny (i.e. phylogenetically distant clades can have identical methylation types) but they are consistent within clades. We conclude that the gene body DNA methylation codes have universality similar to the universality of the genetic code and should consequently be considered as part of the inheritance system.
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Benoît Aliaga, Ingo Bulla, Gabriel Mouahid, David Duval, Christoph Grunau. Universality of the DNA methylation codes in Eucaryotes. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, In press. 〈hal-01905101〉

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