Genome-wide methylation analyses of primary human leukocyte subsets identifies functionally important cell-type-specific hypomethylated regions.


DNA methylation is an important mechanism by which gene transcription and hence cellular function are regulated. Here, we provide detailed functional genome-wide methylome maps of 5 primary peripheral blood leukocyte subsets including T cells, B cells, monocytes/macrophages, and neutrophils obtained from healthy individuals. A comparison of these methylomes revealed highly specific cell-lineage and cell-subset methylation profiles. DNA hypomethylation is known to be permissive for gene expression and we identified cell-subset-specific hypomethylated regions (HMRs) that strongly correlate with gene transcription levels suggesting these HMRs may regulate corresponding cell functions. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with immune-mediated disease in genome-wide association studies preferentially localized to these cell-specific regulatory HMRs, offering insight into pathogenesis by highlighting cell subsets in which specific epigenetic changes may drive disease. Our data provide a valuable reference tool for researchers aiming to investigate the role of DNA methylation in regulating primary leukocyte function in health and immune-mediated disease.

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