High coverage sequences of archaic humans enabled the reconstruction of their DNA methylation patterns. This allowed comparing gene regulation between human groups, and linking such regulatory changes to phenotypic differences. In a previous work, a detailed comparison of DNA methylation in modern humans, archaic humans, and chimpanzees revealed 873 modern human-derived differentially methylated regions (DMRs). To understand the regulatory implications of these DMRs, we defined differentially methylated genes (DMGs) as genes that harbor DMRs in their promoter or gene body. While most of the modern human-derived DMRs could be linked to DMGs, many others remained unassigned. Here, we used information on 3D genome organization to link ~70 out of the remaining 288 unassigned DMRs to genes. Combined with the previously identified DMGs, we reinforce the enrichment of these genes with vocal and facial anatomy, and additionally find significant enrichment with the spinal column, chin, hair, and scalp. These results reveal the importance of 3D genomic organization in understanding gene regulation by DNA methylation.
Year of publication
Cells, 9(1), 48