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Glossary of Terms

This glossary serves as a reference for terms that can be easily misunderstood, are used multiple ways in bioinformatics, or just need more explaining than is given in earlier sections. Care has been taken to try and use the definitions provided here in the same way throughout the BISCUIT documentation.

General Terms

  • Coverage: Fraction of the genome that has been sequenced to a given depth.
  • Depth: Average number of reads covering each each base in the genome.
  • Watson/Forward/Top Strand: DNA strand where reading from the 5’ to 3’ end proceeds from left to right. The choice of the Watson and Crick strands is arbitrary, but a consistent definition should be used across an entire chromosome.
  • Crick/Reverse/Bottom Strand: DNA strand where reading from the 5’ to 3’ end proceeds from right to left. The choice of the Watson and Crick strands is arbitrary, but a consistent definition should be used across an entire chromosome.
  • CpG (CG) Dinucleotide: A cytosine-guanine dinucleotide (often referred to as just CpG). Most DNA methylation occurs in at CpG sites.
  • CpG Terminology:
    • CpG Island: Region of about 200 bp (or longer) in length with a GC percentage greater than 50% and has an observed to expected CpG ratio greater than 60%.
    • CpG Shore: Region up to 2 kb upstream/downstream from a CpG island.
    • CpG Shelf: Region between 2 and 4 kb upstream/downstream from a CpG island.
    • CpG Open Sea: Isolated CpGs in the genome between CpG shelves

Bisulfite Sequencing Terms

  • Whole Genome Bisulfite Sequencing (WGBS): Method of whole genome DNA sequencing that provides additional information regarding the DNA methylation status of single cytosine bases. In this method, DNA is treated with sodium bisulfite prior to sequencing, which converts unmethylated cytosines into uracils and leaves the methylated cytosines unconverted. Following sequencing, the unmethylated cytosines (which were converted to uracils), appear as thymines.
  • Whole Genome (DNA) Methylation Sequencing (WGMS): With the invention of EM-seq, sodium bisulfite is no longer the only method for targeting DNA methylation using whole genome sequencing. WGMS serves as an umbrella term for describing both WGBS and EM-seq.
  • Bisulfite Watson (BSW) / Original Top (OT): Reads originating from the bisulfite converted Watson strand.
  • Bisulfite Crick (BSC) / Original Bottom (OB): Reads originating from the bisulfite converted Crick strand.
  • Bisulfite Watson Reverse (BSWR) / Complement to Original Top (CTOT): Complement to the bisulfite converted Watson strand.
  • Bisulfite Crick Reverse (BSCR) / Complement to Original Bottom (CTOB): Complement to the bisulfite converted Crick strand.
  • Under (or Incomplete) Conversion: Occurs when unmethylated cytosines are not converted during the sodium bisulfite or enzyme treatment, which can lead to an overestimate of the methylation levels in the sample.
  • Over Conversion: Occurs when the sodium bisulfite or enzyme treatment begins converting methylated cytosines, which can lead to an underestimate of the methylation levels in the sample.
  • Directional Library: Library preparation format where only read 1 derives from the OT (or OB) strands and read 2 derives from the CTOT (or CTOB) strands.
  • Non-directional Library: Library preparation format where read 1 derives from any of the four possible strands (OT/OB/CTOT/CTOB) and read 2 derives from the corresponding complement strand (CTOT/CTOB/OT/OB, respectively). Reads from each strand will be mapped with approximately equal frequency.
  • Post-Bisulfite Adapter Tagging (PBAT): In general, bisulfite treatment can be harsh on DNA. PBAT is a DNA library preparation method for WGBS where bisulfite treatment precedes adapter tagging and two rounds of random primer extension. This method is less harsh on DNA and allows for an increased number of unamplified reads from lower quantities of DNA than other methods.

Methylation Analysis Terms

  • Conversion Rate: Fraction of thymines that BISCUIT recognizes as converted cytosines relative to the total number of cytosines (unconverted and converted). Refers to the number of unmethylated cytosines in the genome.
  • Retention Rate: Fraction of cytosines that BISCUIT recognizes as unconverted cytosines relative to the total number of cytosines (unconverted and converted). Refers to the number of methylated cytosines in the genome.
  • M-Bias: In theory, the methylation of cytosines within a read should be independent of position. Therefore, a plot of the methylation fraction as a function of the read position should be a flat, horizontal line. In practice, systematic sequencing and base-calling errors can lead to biases in the methylation level at either the 5’ or 3’ ends of the read. This bias is referred to as the M-bias.
  • Epi-Allele: Similar to genetic alleles, epigenetic marks (like DNA methylation) can be heritable at specific regions in the genome of some species. To distinguish the heritable epigenetic marks from their genetic counterparts, the term Epi-allele (or epiallele) is used.
  • Allele Specific Methylation: Methylation that occurs on one allele in a diploid cell, but not the other.
  • Read Level Retention: In BISCUIT, read level retention is calculated by directly averaging the retention rate across reads, without grouping the reads by their mapped locations.
  • Base Pair Retention: In BISCUIT, base level retention is calculated by first averaging the retention rate over each base/CpG and then averaging over all bases.