Sandra Steyaert, Jolien Diddens, Jeroen Galle, Ellen De Meester, Sarah De Keulenaer, Antje Bakker, Nina Sohnius-Wilhelmi, Carolina Frankl-Vilches, Annemie Van der Linden, Wim Van Criekinge, Wim Vanden Berghe & Tim De Meyer
Learning and memory formation are known to require dynamic CpG (de)methylation and gene expression changes. Here, we aimed at establishing a genome-wide DNA methylation map of the zebra finch genome, a model organism in neuroscience, as well as identifying putatively epigenetically regulated genes. RNA- and MethylCap-seq experiments were performed on two zebra finch cell lines in presence or absence of 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine induced demethylation. First, the MethylCap-seq methodology was validated in zebra finch by comparison with RRBS-generated data. To assess the influence of (variable) methylation on gene expression, RNA-seq experiments were performed as well. Comparison of RNA-seq and MethylCap-seq results showed that at least 357 of the 3,457 AZA-upregulated genes are putatively regulated by methylation in the promoter region, for which a pathway analysis showed remarkable enrichment for neurological networks. A subset of genes was validated using Exon Arrays, quantitative RT-PCR and CpG pyrosequencing on bisulfite-treated samples. To our knowledge, this study provides the first genome-wide DNA methylation map of the zebra finch genome as well as a comprehensive set of genes of which transcription is under putative methylation control.