In mammals, DNA methylation profiles vary substantially between tissues. Recent genome-scale studies report that blood displays a highly distinctive methylomic profile from other somatic tissues. In this study, we sought to understand why blood DNA methylation state is so different to the one found in other tissues. We found that whole blood contains approximately twice as many tissue-specific differentially methylated positions (tDMPs) than any other somatic tissue examined. Furthermore, a large subset of blood tDMPs showed much lower levels of methylation than tDMPs for other tissues. Surprisingly, these regions of low methylation in blood show no difference regarding genomic location, genomic content, evolutionary rates, or histone marks when compared to other tDMPs. Our results reveal why blood displays a distinctive methylation profile relative to other somatic tissues. In the future, it will be important to study how these blood specific tDMPs are mechanistically involved in blood-specific functions.
Keywords: Illumina 450K, Illumina Infinium HumanMethylation450 array; RRBS, reduced representation bisulfite sequencing; blood, Illumina 450K Array, methylation, tissue specific; tDMPs, tissue specific differentially methylated position; tDMRs, tissue specific differentially methylated region.