Elliott G, Hong C, Xing X, Zhou X, Li D, Coarfa C, Bell RJ, Maire CL, Ligon KL, Sigaroudinia M, Gascard P, Tlsty TD, Harris RA, Schalkwyk LC, Bilenky M, Mill J, Farnham PJ, Kellis M, Marra MA, Milosavljevic A, Hirst M, Stormo GD, Wang T, Costello JF
The role of intermediate methylation states in DNA is unclear. Here, to comprehensively identify regions of intermediate methylation and their quantitative relationship with gene activity, we apply integrative and comparative epigenomics to 25 human primary cell and tissue samples. We report 18,452 intermediate methylation regions located near 36% of genes and enriched at enhancers, exons and DNase I hypersensitivity sites. Intermediate methylation regions average 57% methylation, are predominantly allele-independent and are conserved across individuals and between mouse and human, suggesting a conserved function. These regions have an intermediate level of active chromatin marks and their associated genes have intermediate transcriptional activity. Exonic intermediate methylation correlates with exon inclusion at a level between that of fully methylated and unmethylated exons, highlighting gene context-dependent functions. We conclude that intermediate DNA methylation is a conserved signature of gene regulation and exon usage.