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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Aug;87(16):6117-21.

De novo methylation of the MyoD1 CpG island during the establishment of immortal cell lines.

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Kenneth Norris Jr. Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90033.


CpG dinucleotides are unevenly distributed in the vertebrate genome. Bulk DNA is depleted of CpGs and most of the cytosines in the dinucleotide in this fraction are methylated. On the other hand, CpG islands, which are often associated with genes, are unmethylated at testable sites in all normal tissues with the exception of genes on the inactive X chromosome. We used Hpa II/Msp I analysis and ligation-mediated polymerase chain reaction to examine the methylation of the MyoD1 CpG island in adult mouse tissues, early cultures of mouse embryo cells, and immortal fibroblastic cell lines. The island was almost devoid of methylation at CCGG sites in adult mouse tissues and in low-passage mouse embryo fibroblasts. In marked contrast, the island was methylated in 10T 1/2 cells and in six other immortal cell lines showing that methylation of this CpG island had occurred during escape from senescence. The island became even more methylated in chemically transformed derivatives of 10T 1/2 cells. Thus, CpG islands not methylated in normal tissues may become modified to an abnormally high degree during immortalization and transformation.

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