Bioinformatic Analysis of DNA Methylation in Neural Progenitor Cell Models of Alcohol Abuse

Curr Pharmacol Rep. 2016 Oct;2(5):203-210. doi: 10.1007/s40495-016-0065-y. Epub 2016 Aug 5.


Several recent publications sought to investigate the effects of ethanol treatment on models of central nervous system development, specifically through changes in DNA methylation. Regulation of DNA methylation causes a long-lasting, epigenetic change in the capacity of the genome to respond to developmental or metabolic stimuli. Changes in technologies for quantifying DNA methylation have increased the ability to identify and interpret potential effects of ethanol. Here, we review these recent studies in order to evaluate the detection technologies and bioinformatic analyses. Our evaluation finds that whole- or targeted-genome sequencing combined with bisulfite conversion of unmethylated G to U residues is now the standard for assessing genome-wide effects, and specific differentially methylated regions can be validated by one of several widely-available techniques. The acceptance of these technologies should help understand how ethanol leads to life-long developmental or behavioral deficits, and, perhaps, suggest therapies to reverse these effects.