DNA methylation is often analyzed by reporting the average methylation degree of each cytosine. In this study, we used a single molecule methylation analysis in order to look at the methylation conformation of individual molecules. Using D-aspartate oxidase as a model gene, we performed an in-depth methylation analysis through the developmental stages of 3 different mouse tissues (brain, lung, and gut), where this gene undergoes opposite methylation destiny. This approach allowed us to track both methylation and demethylation processes at high resolution. The complexity of these dynamics was markedly simplified by introducing the concept of methylation classes (MCs), defined as the number of methylated cytosines per molecule, irrespective of their position. The MC concept smooths the stochasticity of the system, allowing a more deterministic description. In this framework, we also propose a mathematical model based on the Markov chain. This model aims to identify the transition probability of a molecule from one MC to another during methylation and demethylation processes. The results of our model suggest that: 1) both processes are ruled by a dominant class of phenomena, namely, the gain or loss of one methyl group at a time; and 2) the probability of a single CpG site becoming methylated or demethylated depends on the methylation status of the whole molecule at that time.
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