UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Improving cell mixture deconvolution by identifying optimal DNA methylation libraries (IDOL) Koestler, Devin C; Jones, Meaghan J; Usset, Joseph; Christensen, Brock C; Butler, Rondi A; Kobor, Michael S; Wiencke, John K; Kelsey, Karl T


Background: Confounding due to cellular heterogeneity represents one of the foremost challenges currently facing Epigenome-Wide Association Studies (EWAS). Statistical methods leveraging the tissue-specificity of DNA methylation for deconvoluting the cellular mixture of heterogenous biospecimens offer a promising solution, however the performance of such methods depends entirely on the library of methylation markers being used for deconvolution. Here, we introduce a novel algorithm for Identifying Optimal Libraries (IDOL) that dynamically scans a candidate set of cell-specific methylation markers to find libraries that optimize the accuracy of cell fraction estimates obtained from cell mixture deconvolution. Results Application of IDOL to training set consisting of samples with both whole-blood DNA methylation data (Illumina HumanMethylation450 BeadArray (HM450)) and flow cytometry measurements of cell composition revealed an optimized library comprised of 300 CpG sites. When compared existing libraries, the library identified by IDOL demonstrated significantly better overall discrimination of the entire immune cell landscape (p = 0.038), and resulted in improved discrimination of 14 out of the 15 pairs of leukocyte subtypes. Estimates of cell composition across the samples in the training set using the IDOL library were highly correlated with their respective flow cytometry measurements, with all cell-specific R 2>0.99 and root mean square errors (RMSEs) ranging from [0.97 % to 1.33 %] across leukocyte subtypes. Independent validation of the optimized IDOL library using two additional HM450 data sets showed similarly strong prediction performance, with all cell-specific R 2>0.90 and R M S E

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