Heterogeneity of DNA methylation status among alleles is observed in various cell types and is involved in epigenetic gene regulation and cancer biology. However, the individual methylation profile within each allele has not yet been examined at the whole-genome level. In the present study, we applied linkage disequilibrium analysis to the DNA methylation data obtained from whole-genome bisulfite sequencing studies in mouse germline and other types of cells. We found that the methylation status of 2 consecutive CpG sites showed deviation from equilibrium frequency toward concordant linkage (both methylated or both unmethylated) in germline cells. In the imprinting loci where methylation of constituent alleles is known, our analysis detected the deviation toward the concordant linkage as expected. In addition, we applied this analysis to the transitional zone between methylated and unmethylated regions and to the cells undergoing epigenetic reprogramming. In both cases, deviation to the concordant-linked alleles was conspicuous, indicating that the methylation pattern is not random but rather concordant within each allele. These results will provide the key to understanding the mechanism underlying allelic heterogeneity.
Keywords: DNA methylation; DNA methyltransferase; adjacent CpG sites; allelic heterogeneity; germ cells.