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Methods. 2007 Mar;41(3):320-32.

Single-molecule and population probing of chromatin structure using DNA methyltransferases.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Texas A&M University, 2128 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-2128, USA.


Probing chromatin structure with DNA methyltransferases offers advantages over more commonly used nuclease-based and chromatin immunoprecipitation methods for detection of nucleosomes and non-histone protein-DNA interactions. Here, we describe two related methods in which the readout of MTase accessibility is obtained by assaying 5-methylcytosine in DNA through the PCR-based technique of bisulfite genomic sequencing. The methyltransferase accessibility protocol (MAP) determines the relative frequency at which the enzyme accesses each of its target sites over an entire population of PCR amplified product. While MAP yields much quantitative information about relative accessibility of a region of chromatin, a complementary single-molecule view of methyltransferase accessibility, termed MAP for individual templates (MAP-IT), is provided by analysis of cloned PCR products. Absolute rather than relative methylation frequencies in a region are obtained by summing the methylation status at each site over a cohort of clones. Moreover, as the integrity of individual molecules is maintained in MAP-IT, unique information about the distribution of multiple footprints along continuous regions is gleaned. In principle, the population MAP and single-molecule MAP-IT strategies can be used to analyze chromatin structure in a variety of model systems. Here, we describe the application of MAP in living Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells and MAP-IT in the analysis of a mammalian tumor suppressor gene in nuclei. This application of MAP-IT provides the first means to simultaneously determine CpG methylation of mammalian genes and their overlying chromatin structure in the same single DNA molecule.

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