DNA motifs associated with aberrant CpG island methylation

Genomics. 2006 May;87(5):572-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ygeno.2005.12.016. Epub 2006 Feb 17.


Epigenetic silencing involving the aberrant methylation of promoter region CpG islands is widely recognized as a tumor suppressor silencing mechanism in cancer. However, the molecular pathways underlying aberrant DNA methylation remain elusive. Recently we showed that, on a genome-wide level, CpG island loci differ in their intrinsic susceptibility to aberrant methylation and that this susceptibility can be predicted based on underlying sequence context. These data suggest that there are sequence/structural features that contribute to the protection from or susceptibility to aberrant methylation. Here we use motif elicitation coupled with classification techniques to identify DNA sequence motifs that selectively define methylation-prone or methylation-resistant CpG islands. Motifs common to 28 methylation-prone or 47 methylation-resistant CpG island-containing genomic fragments were determined using the MEME and MAST algorithms (). The five most discriminatory motifs derived from methylation-prone sequences were found to be associated with CpG islands in general and were nonrandomly distributed throughout the genome. In contrast, the eight most discriminatory motifs derived from the methylation-resistant CpG islands were randomly distributed throughout the genome. Interestingly, this latter group tended to associate with Alu and other repetitive sequences. Used together, the frequency of occurrence of these motifs successfully discriminated methylation-prone and methylation-resistant CpG island groups with an accuracy of 87% after 10-fold cross-validation. The motifs identified here are candidate methylation-targeting or methylation-protection DNA sequences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Alu Elements
  • Base Sequence*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • CpG Islands / genetics*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Humans
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA*
  • Transfection


  • DNA