Single-cell methylomes identify neuronal subtypes and regulatory elements in mammalian cortex

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Abstract

The mammalian brain contains diverse neuronal types, yet we lack single-cell epigenomic assays that are able to identify and characterize them. DNA methylation is a stable epigenetic mark that distinguishes cell types and marks regulatory elements. We generated >6000 methylomes from single neuronal nuclei and used them to identify 16 mouse and 21 human neuronal subpopulations in the frontal cortex. CG and non-CG methylation exhibited cell type–specific distributions, and we identified regulatory elements with differential methylation across neuron types. Methylation signatures identified a layer 6 excitatory neuron subtype and a unique human parvalbumin-expressing inhibitory neuron subtype. We observed stronger cross-species conservation of regulatory elements in inhibitory neurons than in excitatory neurons. Single-nucleus methylomes expand the atlas of brain cell types and identify regulatory elements that drive conserved brain cell diversity.

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