Background: DNA methylation dynamics in the brain are associated with normal development and neuropsychiatric disease and differ across functionally distinct brain regions. Previous studies of genome-wide methylation differences among human brain regions focus on limited numbers of individuals and one to two brain regions.
Results: Using GTEx samples, we generate a resource of DNA methylation in purified neuronal nuclei from 8 brain regions as well as lung and thyroid tissues from 12 to 23 donors. We identify differentially methylated regions between brain regions among neuronal nuclei in both CpG (181,146) and non-CpG (264,868) contexts, few of which were unique to a single pairwise comparison. This significantly expands the knowledge of differential methylation across the brain by 10-fold. In addition, we present the first differential methylation analysis among neuronal nuclei from basal ganglia tissues and identify unique CpG differentially methylated regions, many associated with ion transport. We also identify 81,130 regions of variably CpG methylated regions, i.e., variable methylation among individuals in the same brain region, which are enriched in regulatory regions and in CpG differentially methylated regions. Many variably methylated regions are unique to a specific brain region, with only 202 common across all brain regions, as well as lung and thyroid. Variably methylated regions identified in the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and hippocampus are enriched for heritability of schizophrenia.
Conclusions: These data suggest that epigenetic variation in these particular human brain regions could be associated with the risk for this neuropsychiatric disorder.
Keywords: Differentially methylated regions; GTEx; Neuropsychiatric disease; Variably methylated regions.