Researchers say mapping of DNA methylations can open a new door to cancer study

Scientists have found that DNA methylation in bacteria is responsible for regulation, virulence, reproduction, and gene expression. DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification in which DNA base cytosine enzymatically methylates at the 5-carbon position. Epigenetic modifications are attached to DNA to regulate it by not changing the sequence.

DNA methylation is required for tissue-specific gene expression for determining cell’s identity. Cells can control activities of the genes by addition and deletion of chemical modification to its DNA. The chemical modification determines which genes will remain turned on or off. DNA methylation also performs the same activity after forming DNA modifications or tags.

According to the assistant professor of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Tao Wu, “The study of DNA methylation is part of the field of epigenetics. It is important because it helps us understand why one particular type pf bacteria causes a more severe disease than another or how a normal cell can change and give rise to disease, such as cancer.”

The lab named after the professor, The Wu Lab that has a vision to overcome cancer with therapeutic resistance by understanding the role of epigenetics to it. Dr. Wu stated that previously it was observed that there is presence of mostly methyl-cytosine tags, the 5mC on mammals and other bacterias in order to regulate gene activity. Although in 2016 Dr. Wu has reported in Nature the findings of tags on adenine building block of DNA, 6mA in mammals. the researcher has been studying other tags on DNA base cytosine but at the 4th carbon position, 4mC. And claimed that they are developing a novel method to profile 6mA, 4mC and 5mC.

The findings can be found in the journal Genome Biology where the researcher and his associates reported development of chemical based sequencing method to quantify epigenetic markers. The method taken is NT-seq or nitrite treatment followed by next generation sequencing for detecting various DNA methylation on a genome. According to theresearchers the NT-seq is cost effective, efficient and high resolution method.

Dr. Wu said, “We are excited about NT-seq. It can uncover new DNA methylation patterns or motifs, validate results obtained with other methods, generate datasets for developing machine-learning tools for methylation analysis and paves the way to further the epigenetic study of genomic DNA 6mA in non-bacterial organisms, including studies on the epigenetics of cancer.”

Researchers reported that mapping of DNA methylation and producing a dataset can open a new possibilities in cancer epigenetics.