In higher eukaryotes DNA methylation is a prominent epigenetic mark important for chromatin structure and gene expression. Thus, profiling DNA methylation is important for predicting gene expressions associated with specific traits or diseases. DNA methylation is achieved by DNA methyltransferases and can be actively removed by specific enzymes in a replication-independent manner. DEMETER (DME) is a bifunctional 5-methylcytosine (5mC) DNA glycosylase responsible for active DNA demethylation that excises 5mC from DNA and cleaves a sugar-phosphate bond generating a single strand break (SSB). In this study, DME was used to analyze DNA methylation levels at specific epialleles accompanied with gain or loss of DNA methylation. DME treatment on genomic DNA generates SSBs in a nonsequence-specific fashion proportional to 5mC density, and thus DNA methylation levels can be easily measured when combined with the quantitative PCR (qPCR) method. The DME-qPCR analysis was applied to measure DNA methylation levels at the FWA
gene in late-flowering Arabidopsis
mutants and the CNR
gene during fruit ripening in tomato. Differentially methylated epialleles were successfully distinguished corresponding to their expression levels and phenotypes. DME-qPCR is proven a simple yet effective method for quantitative DNA methylation analysis, providing advantages over current techniques based on methylation-sensitive restriction digestion.
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