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Background: DNA methylation of CpG dinucleotides is an essential epigenetic modification that plays a key role in transcription. Widely used DNA enrichment-based methods offer high coverage for measuring methylated CpG dinucleotides, with the lowest cost per CpG covered genome-wide. However, these methods measure the DNA enrichment of methyl-CpG binding, and thus do not provide information on absolute methylation levels. Further, the enrichment is influenced by various confounding factors in addition to methylation status, for example, CpG density. Computational models that can accurately derive absolute methylation levels from DNA enrichment data are needed. Results: We developed "MeDEStrand," a method that uses a sigmoid function to estimate and correct the CpG bias from enrichment results to infer absolute DNA methylation levels. Unlike previous methods, which estimate CpG bias based on reads mapped at the same genomic loci, MeDEStrand processes the reads for the positive and negative DNA strands separately. We compared the performance of MeDEStrand to that of three other state-of-the-art methods "MEDIPS," "BayMeth," and "QSEA" on four independent datasets generated using immortalized cell lines (GM12878 and K562) and human primary cells (foreskin fibroblasts and mammary epithelial cells). Based on the comparison of the inferred absolute methylation levels from MeDIP-seq data and the corresponding reduced-representation bisulfite sequencing data from each method, MeDEStrand showed the best performance at high resolution of 25, 50, and 100 base pairs. Conclusions: The MeDEStrand tool can be used to infer whole-genome absolute DNA methylation levels at the same cost of enrichment-based methods with adequate accuracy and resolution. R package MeDEStrand and its tutorial is freely available for download at https://github.com/jxu1234/MeDEStrand.git.
Xu, J., Liu, S., Yin, P., Bulun, S., & Dai, Y. (2018). MeDEStrand: An improved method to infer genome-wide absolute methylation levels from DNA enrichment data. BMC Bioinformatics, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12859-018-2574-7