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Journal Article

DNA methylation-based sex classifier to predict sex and identify sex chromosome aneuploidy


Publication date

28 Jun 2021


Sex is an important covariate of epigenome-wide association studies due to its strong influence on DNA methylation patterns across numerous genomic positions. Nevertheless, many samples on the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) frequently lack a sex annotation or are incorrectly labelled. Considering the influence that sex imposes on DNA methylation patterns, it is necessary to ensure that methods for filtering poor samples and checking of sex assignment are accurate and widely applicable.
Here we presented a novel method to predict sex using only DNA methylation beta values, which can be readily applied to almost all DNA methylation datasets of different formats (raw IDATs or text files with only signal intensities) uploaded to GEO. We identified 4345 significantly (p<0.01) sex-associated CpG sites present on both 450K and EPIC arrays, and constructed a sex classifier based on the two first principal components of the DNA methylation data of sex-associated probes mapped on sex chromosomes. The proposed method is constructed using whole blood samples and exhibits good performance across a wide range of tissues. We further demonstrated that our method can be used to identify samples with sex chromosome aneuploidy, this function is validated by five Turner syndrome cases and one Klinefelter syndrome case.
This proposed sex classifier not only can be used for sex predictions but also applied to identify samples with sex chromosome aneuploidy, and it is freely and easily accessible by calling the ‘estimateSex’ function from the newest wateRmelon Bioconductor package (

Published in

BMC Genomics







Biology and Genetics


Open Access; This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.


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