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Worldwide patterns of human epigenetic variation.

  • Author(s): Carja, Oana
  • MacIsaac, Julia L
  • Mah, Sarah M
  • Henn, Brenna M
  • Kobor, Michael S
  • Feldman, Marcus W
  • Fraser, Hunter B
  • et al.
Abstract

DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification, influenced by both genetic and environmental variation, that plays a key role in transcriptional regulation and many organismal phenotypes. Although patterns of DNA methylation have been shown to differ between human populations, it remains to be determined how epigenetic diversity relates to the patterns of genetic and gene expression variation at a global scale. Here we measured DNA methylation at 485,000 CpG sites in five diverse human populations, and analysed these data together with genome-wide genotype and gene expression data. We found that population-specific DNA methylation mirrors genetic variation, and has greater local genetic control than mRNA levels. We estimated the rate of epigenetic divergence between populations, which indicates far greater evolutionary stability of DNA methylation in humans than has been observed in plants. This study provides a deeper understanding of worldwide patterns of human epigenetic diversity, as well as initial estimates of the rate of epigenetic divergence in recent human evolution.

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