Background: Mapping of allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) can be a post-GWAS strategy for localizing regulatory sequence polymorphisms (rSNPs). The advantages of this approach, and the mechanisms underlying ASM in normal and neoplastic cells, remain to be clarified. Results: We perform whole genome methyl-seq on diverse normal cells and tissues and three cancer types. After excluding imprinting, the data pinpoint 15,112 high-confidence ASM differentially methylated regions, of which 1838 contain SNPs in strong linkage disequilibrium or coinciding with GWAS peaks. ASM frequencies are increased in cancers versus matched normal tissues, due to widespread allele-specific hypomethylation and focal allele-specific hypermethylation in poised chromatin. Cancer cells show increased allele switching at ASM loci, but disruptive SNPs in specific classes of CTCF and transcription factor binding motifs are similarly correlated with ASM in cancer and non-cancer. Rare somatic mutations affecting these same motif classes track with de novo ASM. Allele-specific transcription factor binding from ChIP-seq is enriched among ASM loci, but most ASM differentially methylated regions lack such annotations, and some are found in otherwise uninformative "chromatin deserts."Conclusions: ASM is increased in cancers but occurs by a shared mechanism involving disruptive SNPs in CTCF and transcription factor binding sites in both normal and neoplastic cells. Dense ASM mapping in normal plus cancer samples reveals candidate rSNPs that are difficult to find by other approaches. Together with GWAS data, these rSNPs can nominate specific transcriptional pathways in susceptibility to autoimmune, cardiometabolic, neuropsychiatric, and neoplastic diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Cell Biology