Epigenetic regulation of neuronal cell specification inferred with single cell “Omics” data
The brain is a highly complex organ consisting of numerous types of cells with ample diversity at the epigenetic level to achieve distinct gene expression profiles. During neuronal cell specification, transcription factors (TFs) form regulatory modules with chromatin remodeling proteins to initiate the cascade of epigenetic changes. Currently, little is known about brain epigenetic regulatory modules and how they regulate gene expression in a cell-type specific manner. To infer TFs involved in neuronal specification, we applied a recursive motif search approach on the differentially methylated regions identified from single-cell methylomes. The epigenetic transcription regulatory modules (ETRM), including EGR1 and MEF2C, were predicted and the co-expression of TFs in ETRMs were examined with RNA-seq data from single or sorted brain cells using a conditional probability matrix. Lastly, computational predications were validated with EGR1 ChIP-seq data. In addition, methylome and RNA-seq data generated from Egr1 knockout mice supported the essential role of EGR1 in brain epigenome programming, in particular for excitatory neurons. In summary, we demonstrated that brain single cell methylome and RNA-seq data can be integrated to gain a better understanding of how ETRMs control cell specification. The analytical pipeline implemented in this study is freely accessible in the Github repository (https://github.com/Gavin-Yinld/brain_TF).