Researchers in the epigenetic field from Epigentek have developed a novel approach for the identification of the 'sixth DNA base', 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC).
This technology is based on a high-throughput, strip-well format and is incorporated into the first commercially available product, the Methylflash Hydroxymethylated DNA quantification kit, for rapidly quantifying hydroxymethylated DNA.
According to Epigentek, 5-hmC is a modified form of 5-cytosine, recently discovered in animal tissues.
The function of 5-hmC in epigenetics may be different from its forerunner 5-methylcytosine (5-mC) and currently remains unknown.
It is believed, however, that 5-hmC plays an important role in switching genes on and off.
The presence of 5-hmC makes it necessary to not only re-evaluate existing DNA methylation data but also to determine the relative distribution and changes of 5-hmC in the human tissues of healthy and diseased statuses.
The company claims that, prior to its Methylflash technology, there were no methods that could be used for practically or routinely identifying 5-hmC and discriminating this base from 5-mC.
Epigentek's new method can be used for rapidly and accurately identifying hydroxymethylated DNA or 5-hmC in a high-throughput format, suitable from any species, including mammals, plants, fungi, bacteria and viruses, in a variety of forms, such as cultured cells, fresh and frozen tissues, paraffin-embedded tissues, plasma/serum samples and body fluid samples.
In the assay, DNA is bound to strip wells that are specifically treated to have a high DNA affinity.
The hydroxymethylated fraction in the DNA is then immunospecifically detected.
Utilising this method, scientists at Epigentek identified that 5-hmC is abundant in normal human brains and colon tissues but significantly decreased in colon cancer tissues/cells.
It was also found that 5-hmC is more than 30 per cent and 15 per cent as abundant as 5-mC in human brains and colon tissues, respectively.