DNA methylation-calling tools for Oxford Nanopore sequencing: a survey and human epigenome-wide evaluation

Genome Biol. 2021 Oct 18;22(1):295. doi: 10.1186/s13059-021-02510-z.


Background: Nanopore long-read sequencing technology greatly expands the capacity of long-range, single-molecule DNA-modification detection. A growing number of analytical tools have been developed to detect DNA methylation from nanopore sequencing reads. Here, we assess the performance of different methylation-calling tools to provide a systematic evaluation to guide researchers performing human epigenome-wide studies.

Results: We compare seven analytic tools for detecting DNA methylation from nanopore long-read sequencing data generated from human natural DNA at a whole-genome scale. We evaluate the per-read and per-site performance of CpG methylation prediction across different genomic contexts, CpG site coverage, and computational resources consumed by each tool. The seven tools exhibit different performances across the evaluation criteria. We show that the methylation prediction at regions with discordant DNA methylation patterns, intergenic regions, low CG density regions, and repetitive regions show room for improvement across all tools. Furthermore, we demonstrate that 5hmC levels at least partly contribute to the discrepancy between bisulfite and nanopore sequencing. Lastly, we provide an online DNA methylation database ( https://nanome.jax.org ) to display the DNA methylation levels detected by nanopore sequencing and bisulfite sequencing data across different genomic contexts.

Conclusions: Our study is the first systematic benchmark of computational methods for detection of mammalian whole-genome DNA modifications in nanopore sequencing. We provide a broad foundation for cross-platform standardization and an evaluation of analytical tools designed for genome-scale modified base detection using nanopore sequencing.

Keywords: Base modification; DNA methylation; Long-read sequencing; Methylation calling; Nanopore sequencing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine / analysis
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenome*
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Nanopore Sequencing*
  • Software*


  • 5-Methylcytosine