The exact role of intragenic DNA methylation in regulating tissue-specific gene regulation is unclear. Recently, the DNA-binding protein CTCF has been shown to participate in the regulation of alternative splicing in a DNA methylation-dependent manner. To globally evaluate the relationship between DNA methylation and tissue-specific alternative splicing, we performed genome-wide DNA methylation profiling of mouse retina and brain. In protein-coding genes, tissue-specific differentially methylated regions (T-DMRs) were preferentially located in exons and introns. Gene ontology and evolutionary conservation analysis suggest that these T-DMRs are likely to be biologically relevant. More than 14% of alternatively spliced genes were associated with a T-DMR. T-DMR-associated genes were enriched for developmental genes, suggesting that a specific set of alternatively spliced genes may be regulated through DNA methylation. Novel DNA sequences motifs overrepresented in T-DMRs were identified as being associated with positive and/or negative regulation of alternative splicing in a position-dependent context. The majority of these evolutionarily conserved motifs contain a CpG dinucleotide. Some transcription factors, which recognize these motifs, are known to be involved in splicing. Our results suggest that DNA methylation-dependent alternative splicing is widespread and lay the foundation for further mechanistic studies of the role of DNA methylation in tissue-specific splicing regulation.
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