Differential methylation analysis of reduced representation bisulfite sequencing experiments using edgeR [version 1; peer review: 2 approved, 1 approved with reservations] Academic Article uri icon


  • Studies in epigenetics have shown that DNA methylation is a key factor in regulating gene expression. Aberrant DNA methylation is often associated with DNA instability, which could lead to development of diseases such as cancer. DNA methylation typically occurs in CpG context. When located in a gene promoter, DNA methylation often acts to repress transcription and gene expression. The most commonly used technology of studying DNA methylation is bisulfite sequencing (BS-seq), which can be used to measure genomewide methylation levels on the single-nucleotide scale. Notably, BS-seq can also be combined with enrichment strategies, such as reduced representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS), to target CpG-rich regions in order to save per-sample costs. A typical DNA methylation analysis involves identifying differentially methylated regions (DMRs) between different experimental conditions. Many statistical methods have been developed for finding DMRs in BS-seq data. In this workflow, we propose a novel approach of detecting DMRs using edgeR.  By providing a complete analysis of RRBS profiles of epithelial populations in the mouse mammary gland, we will demonstrate that differential methylation analyses can be fit into the existing pipelines specifically designed for RNA-seq differential expression studies. In addition, the edgeR  generalized linear model framework offers great flexibilities for complex experimental design, while still accounting for the biological variability. The analysis approach illustrated in this article can be applied to any BS-seq data that includes some replication, but it is especially appropriate for RRBS data with small numbers of biological replicates.

publication date

  • 2017