Background: Intracisternal A particle (IAP) is one of the most transpositionally active retrotransposons in the mouse genome, but its expression varies between cell types. This variation is believed to arise from differences in the epigenetic state (e.g., DNA methylation) of the 5′ long terminal repeat (LTR), where transcription starts. However, owing to the high copy number and high sequence similarity between copies, it is difficult to analyze the epigenetic states of individual IAP LTRs in a comprehensive manner. Results: We have developed a method called Target Enrichment after Post-Bisulfite Adaptor Tagging (TEPBAT) to analyze the DNA methylation states of a large number of individual retrotransposon copies at once. Using this method, we determined the DNA methylation levels of >8500 copies of genomic IAP LTRs (almost all copies that we aimed to target by the PCR primers) in the sperm and tail. This revealed that the vast majority of the LTRs were heavily methylated in both sperm and tail; however, hypomethylated copies were more frequently found in the sperm than in the tail. Interestingly, most of these hypomethylated LTRs were solo-Type, belonged to specific IAP subfamilies, and carried binding sites for transcription factors (TFs) that are active in male germ cells. Conclusions: The current study revealed subfamily-and locus-specific hypomethylation of IAP LTRs, and suggests that binding of TFs is involved in the protection from DNA methylation, whereas the IAP internal sequence enhances methylation. Furthermore, the study demonstrated that TEPBAT offers a cost-effective method for a variety of DNA methylome studies that focus on retrotransposon sequences.
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