<p>Background: Illumina DNA methylation microarrays enable epigenome-wide analysis vastly used for the discovery of novel DNA methylation variation in health and disease. However, the microarrays’ probe design cannot fully consider the vast human genetic diversity, leading to genetic artifacts. Distinguishing genuine from artifactual genetic influence is of particular relevance in the study of DNA methylation heritability and methylation quantitative trait loci. But despite its importance, current strategies to account for genetic artifacts are lagging due to a limited mechanistic understanding on how such artifacts operate. Results: To address this, we develop and benchmark UMtools, an R-package containing novel methods for the quantification and qualification of genetic artifacts based on fluorescence intensity signals. With our approach, we model and validate known SNPs/indels on a genetically controlled dataset of monozygotic twins, and we estimate minor allele frequency from DNA methylation data and empirically detect variants not included in dbSNP. Moreover, we identify examples where genetic artifacts interact with each other or with imprinting, X-inactivation, or tissue-specific regulation. Finally, we propose a novel strategy based on co-methylation that can discern between genetic artifacts and genuine genomic influence. Conclusions: We provide an atlas to navigate through the huge diversity of genetic artifacts encountered on DNA methylation microarrays. Overall, our study sets the ground for a paradigm shift in the study of the genetic component of epigenetic variation in DNA methylation microarrays.</p>

doi.org/10.1186/s13059-021-02484-y, hdl.handle.net/1765/136629
Genome Biology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

B. (Benjamin) Planterose Jiménez, M.H. (Manfred) Kayser, & A. (Athina) Vidaki. (2021). Revisiting genetic artifacts on DNA methylation microarrays exposes novel biological implications. Genome Biology, 22(1). doi:10.1186/s13059-021-02484-y