High-throughput third-generation nanopore sequencing devices have enormous potential for simultaneously observing epigenetic modifications in human cells over large regions of the genome. However, signals generated by these devices are subject to considerable noise that can lead to unsatisfactory detection performance and hamper downstream analysis. Here we develop a statistical method, CpelNano, for the quantification and analysis of 5mC methylation landscapes using nanopore data. CpelNano takes into account nanopore noise by means of a hidden Markov model (HMM) in which the true but unknown (“hidden”) methylation state is modeled through an Ising probability distribution that is consistent with methylation means and pairwise correlations, whereas nanopore current signals constitute the observed state. It then estimates the associated methylation potential energy function by employing the expectation-maximization (EM) algorithm and performs differential methylation analysis via permutation-based hypothesis testing. Using simulations and analysis of published data obtained from three human cell lines (GM12878, MCF-10A, and MDA-MB-231), we show that CpelNano can faithfully estimate DNA methylation potential energy landscapes, substantially improving current methods and leading to a powerful tool for the modeling and analysis of epigenetic landscapes using nanopore sequencing data.
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