msap: a tool for the statistical analysis of methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism data


  • A. Pérez-Figueroa

    Corresponding author
    • Departamento de Bioquímica, Genética e Inmunología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Vigo, Vigo, Spain
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Correspondence: Andrés Pérez-Figueroa, Fax: +34-986-813828; E-mail:


In this study msap, an R package which analyses methylation-sensitive amplified polymorphism (MSAP or MS-AFLP) data is presented. The program provides a deep analysis of epigenetic variation starting from a binary data matrix indicating the banding pattern between the isoesquizomeric endonucleases HpaII and MspI, with differential sensitivity to cytosine methylation. After comparing the restriction fragments, the program determines if each fragment is susceptible to methylation (representative of epigenetic variation) or if there is no evidence of methylation (representative of genetic variation). The package provides, in a user-friendly command line interface, a pipeline of different analyses of the variation (genetic and epigenetic) among user-defined groups of samples, as well as the classification of the methylation occurrences in those groups. Statistical testing provides support to the analyses. A comprehensive report of the analyses and several useful plots could help researchers to assess the epigenetic and genetic variation in their MSAP experiments.

msap is downloadable from CRAN ( and its own webpage ( The package is intended to be easy to use even for those people unfamiliar with the R command line environment. Advanced users may take advantage of the available source code to adapt msap to more complex analyses.