Worldwide patterns of human epigenetic variation
Oana Carja, Julia L MacIsaac, Sarah M Mah, Brenna M Henn, Michael S Kobor, Marcus W Feldman, Hunter B Fraser
DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification, influenced by both genetic and environmental variation, that can affect transcription and many organismal phenotypes. Although patterns of DNA methylation have been shown to differ between human populations, it remains to be determined whether epigenetic diversity mirrors the patterns observed for DNA polymorphisms or gene expression levels. We measured DNA methylation at 480,000 sites in 34 individuals from five diverse human populations in the Human Genome Diversity Panel, and analyzed these together with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and gene expression data. We found greater population-specificity of DNA methylation than of mRNA levels, which may be driven by the greater genetic control of methylation. This study provides insights into gene expression and its epigenetic regulation across populations and offers a deeper understanding of worldwide patterns of epigenetic diversity in humans.