Analysis of mitochondrial genome methylation using Nanopore single-molecule sequencing

The level and the biological significance of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) methylation in human cells is a controversial topic. Using long-read third-generation sequencing technology, mtDNA methylation can be detected directly from the sequencing data, which overcomes previously suggested biases, introduced by bisulfite treatment-dependent methods. We investigated mtDNA from whole blood-derived DNA and established a workflow to detect CpG methylation with Nanopolish. In order to obtain native mtDNA, we adjusted a whole-genome sequencing protocol and performed ligation library preparation and Nanopore sequencing.

To validate the workflow, 897bp of methylated and unmethylated synthetic DNA samples at different dilution ratios were sequenced and CpG methylation was detected. Interestingly, we observed that reads with higher methylation in the synthetic DNA did not pass Guppy calling, possibly affecting conclusions about DNA methylation in Nanopore sequencing. We detected in all blood-derived samples overall low-level methylation across the mitochondrial genome, with exceptions at certain CpG sites.

Our results suggest that Nanopore sequencing is capable of detecting low-level mtDNA methylation. However, further refinement of the bioinformatical pipelines including Guppy failed reads are recommended.

Authors: Theresa Lüth, Christine Klein, Susen Schaake, Ronnie Tse, Sandro Pereira, Joshua Lass, Lasse Sinkkonen, Anne Grünewald, Joanne Trinh