The absence of C-5 DNA methylation in Leishmania donovani allows DNA enrichment from complex samples

Bart Cuypers, Franck Dumetz, Pieter Meysman, Kris Laukens, Géraldine De Muylder, Jean-Claude Dujardin, Malgorzata Anna Domagalska

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Cytosine C5 methylation is an important epigenetic control mechanism in a wide array of eukaryotic organisms and generally carried out by proteins of the C-5 DNA methyltransferase family (DNMTs). In several protozoans, the status of this mechanism remains elusive, such as in Leishmania, the causative agent of the disease leishmaniasis in humans and a wide array of vertebrate animals. In this work, we showed that the Leishmania donovani genome contains a C-5 DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) from the DNMT6 subfamily, whose function is still unclear, and verified its expression at the RNA level. We created viable overexpressor and knock-out lines of this enzyme and characterized their genome-wide methylation patterns using whole-genome bisulfite sequencing, together with promastigote and amastigote control lines. Interestingly, despite the DNMT6 presence, we found that methylation levels were equal to or lower than 0.0003% at CpG sites, 0.0005% at CHG sites, and 0.0126% at CHH sites at the genomic scale. As none of the methylated sites were retained after manual verification, we conclude that there is no evidence for DNA methylation in this species. We demonstrated that this difference in DNA methylation between the parasite (no detectable DNA methylation) and the vertebrate host (DNA methylation) allowed enrichment of parasite vs. host DNA using methyl-CpG-binding domain columns, readily available in commercial kits. As such, we depleted methylated DNA from mixes of Leishmania promastigote and amastigote DNA with human DNA, resulting in average Leishmania:human enrichments from 62× up to 263×. These results open a promising avenue for unmethylated DNA enrichment as a pre-enrichment step before sequencing Leishmania clinical samples.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1252
Issue number8
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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