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Genomics. 1990 Aug;7(4):463-75.

Comprehensive detection of single base changes in human genomic DNA using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and a GC clamp.

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Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139.


We present a simple, efficient extension of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis that allows the detection of nearly any sequence change in a defined fragment of DNA. The fragment can be obtained either by means of the polymerase chain reaction or by restriction digestion of genomic DNA. With restriction fragments of genomic DNA, sequence information is not required, and covalent modifications in genomic DNA that are lost in a PCR, such as methylation, are detectable. We describe how a GC clamp (an arbitrary, G+C-rich sequence of 30 to 60 bp) can be attached to a selected restriction fragment present in a digest of genomic DNA. The GC clamp alters the melting properties of the fragment; this change greatly increases the fraction of possible mutations that is detectable. In a 272-bp HaeIII fragment from the human beta-globin gene, we were able to detect 13 of 13 mutations tested in human genomic DNA. Four additional mutations in cloned plasmids were analyzed. The data agree with a simple theoretical model for DGGE, which predicts how two fragments, differing at a single (specified) base pair, are resolved in a gradient gel as a function of running time for the gel. The calculation assists in the design of probes and gel conditions that aid in the detection of sequence changes.

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