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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23156. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023156. Epub 2011 Aug 2.

CpG islands undermethylation in human genomic regions under selective pressure.

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  • 1Gruppo Interdipartimentale di Bioinformatica e Biologia Computazionale, Università di Napoli Federico II - Università di Salerno, Naples, Italy.


DNA methylation at CpG islands (CGIs) is one of the most intensively studied epigenetic mechanisms. It is fundamental for cellular differentiation and control of transcriptional potential. DNA methylation is involved also in several processes that are central to evolutionary biology, including phenotypic plasticity and evolvability. In this study, we explored the relationship between CpG islands methylation and signatures of selective pressure in Homo Sapiens, using a computational biology approach. By analyzing methylation data of 25 cell lines from the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) Consortium, we compared the DNA methylation of CpG islands in genomic regions under selective pressure with the methylation of CpG islands in the remaining part of the genome. To define genomic regions under selective pressure, we used three different methods, each oriented to provide distinct information about selective events. Independently of the method and of the cell type used, we found evidences of undermethylation of CGIs in human genomic regions under selective pressure. Additionally, by analyzing SNP frequency in CpG islands, we demonstrated that CpG islands in regions under selective pressure show lower genetic variation. Our findings suggest that the CpG islands in regions under selective pressure seem to be somehow more "protected" from methylation when compared with other regions of the genome.

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