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Anal Chem. 2002 Sep 1;74(17):4526-31.

A method to assess genomic DNA methylation using high-performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry.

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Vitamin Metabolism Laboratory, Jean Mayer United States Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA.


Eukaryotic DNA is methylated at some cytosine residues, and this epigenetic feature performs critical functions. We developed a method for quantitative determination of 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine in human DNA using liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC/ESI-MS). The DNA was enzymatically hydrolyzed by sequential digestion with three enzymes. DNA hydrolyzates were subsequently separated by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography in isocratic mode. The four major DNA bases and 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine were resolved and eluted in 13 min. Identification of 2'-deoxycytidine and 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine was obtained by combined diode array UV spectra analysis and mass spectra of chromatographic peaks. The isotopomers [15N3]-2'-deoxycytidine and (methyl-d3,ring-6-d1)-5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine were used as internal standards. Ions of m/z 126 and 130 were used to detect 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine and its isotopomer, and ions of m/z 112 and 115 were used to detect 2'-deoxycytidine and its stable isotopomer, respectively. The DNA methylation status was calculated on the basis of the amount of 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine per microgram of DNA with percent relative standard deviations (%RSD) for a method precision of 7.1 (within-day) and 5.7 (day-to-day). This method also allows the measurement of 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine expressed as a percentage of total deoxycytidine residues in genomic DNA with %RSD for method precision of 1.9 (within-day) and 1.7 (day-to-day). This LC/MS method for quantitative determination of genomic DNA methylation status is rapid, sensitive, selective, and precise.

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