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Studying the epigenome using next generation sequencing
  1. Chee Seng Ku1,2,
  2. Nasheen Naidoo2,
  3. Mengchu Wu1,
  4. Richie Soong1
  1. 1Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  2. 2Centre for Molecular Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Chee Seng Ku, Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, National University of Singapore, Singapore; g0700040{at}


The advances in next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies have had a significant impact on epigenomic research. The arrival of NGS technologies has enabled a more powerful sequencing based method—that is, ChIP-Seq—to interrogate whole genome histone modifications, improving on the conventional microarray based method (ChIP-chip). Similarly, the first human DNA methylome was mapped using NGS technologies. More importantly, studies of DNA methylation and histone modification using NGS technologies have yielded new discoveries and improved our knowledge of human biology and diseases. The concept that cytosine methylation was restricted to CpG dinucleotides has only been recently challenged by new data generated from sequencing the DNA methylome. Approximately 25% of all cytosine methylation identified in stem cells was in a non-CG context. The non-CG methylation was more enriched in gene bodies and depleted in protein binding sites and enhancers. The recent developments of third generation sequencing technologies have shown promising results of directly sequencing methylated nucleotides and having the ability to differentiate between 5-methylcytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine. The importance of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine remains largely unknown, but it has been found in various tissues. 5-hydroxymethylcytosine was particularly enriched at promoters and in intragenic regions (gene bodies) but was largely absent from non-gene regions in DNA from human brain frontal lobe tissue. The presence of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in gene bodies was more positively correlated with gene expression levels. The importance of studying 5-methylcytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine separately for their biological roles will become clearer when more efficient methods to distinguish them are available.

  • Epigenetics
  • DNA methylation
  • histone modifications
  • next-generation sequencing
  • genome-wide association
  • bisulfite sequencing
  • chromatin-immunoprecipitation
  • genetics
  • complex traits
  • copy-number
  • genome-wide
  • epigenetics
  • genetic epidemiology
  • immunology (including allergy)
  • other endocrinology
  • drugs: endocrine system
  • molecular genetics
  • metabolic disorders

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.