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Ultra-deep whole genome bisulfite sequencing reveals a single methylation hotspot in human brain mitochondrial DNA
Romain Guitton 1 2, Christian Dölle 1 2, Guido Alves 3 4, Tysnes Ole-Bjørn 1 2, Gonzalo S Nido 1 2, Charalampos Tzoulis 1 2
...Here, we characterized the mtDNA methylation landscape in the prefrontal cortex of neurological healthy individuals (n=26) and patients with Parkinson's disease (n=27), using a combination of whole-genome bisulphite sequencing (WGBS) and bisulphite-independent methods. Accurate mtDNA mapping from WGBS data required alignment to an mtDNA reference only, to avoid misalignment to nuclear mitochondrial pseudogenes. Once correctly aligned, WGBS data provided ultra-deep mtDNA coverage (16,723 ± 7,711) and revealed overall very low levels of cytosine methylation. The highest methylation levels (5.49 ± 0.97%) were found on CpG position m.545, located in the heavy-strand promoter 1 region. The m.545 methylation was validated using a combination of methylation-sensitive DNA digestion and quantitative PCR analysis. We detected no association between mtDNA methylation profile and Parkinson's disease. Interestingly, m.545 methylation correlated with the levels of mtDNA transcripts, suggesting a putative role in regulating mtDNA gene expression. In addition, we propose a robust framework for methylation analysis of mtDNA from WGBS data, which is less prone to false-positive findings due to misalignment of nuclear mitochondrial pseudogene sequences.