Differential effect of three base modifications on DNA thermostability revealed by high resolution melting

Carlos M. Rodríguez López, Amanda J. Lloyd, Kate Leonard, Mike J. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


High resolution melting (HRM) can detect and quantify the presence of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) in DNA samples, but the ability of HRM to diagnose other DNA modifications remains unexplored. The DNA bases N6-methyladenine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine occur across almost all phyla. While their function remains controversial, their presence perturbs DNA structure. Such modifications could affect gene regulation, chromatin condensation and DNA packaging. Here, we reveal that DNA containing N6-methyladenine or 5-hydroxymethylcytosine exhibits reduced thermal stability compared to cytosine-methylated DNA. These thermostability changes are sufficiently divergent to allow detection and quantification by HRM analysis. Thus, we report that HRM distinguishes between sequence-identical DNA differing only in the modification type of one base. This approach is also able to distinguish between two DNA fragments carrying both N6-methyladenine and 5-methylcytosine but differing only in the distance separating the modified bases. This finding provides scope for the development of new methods to characterize DNA chemically and to allow for low cost screening of mutant populations of genes involved in base modification. More fundamentally, contrast between the thermostabilizing effects of 5mC on dsDNA compared with the destabilizing effects of N6-methyladenine (m6A) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) raises the intriguing possibility of an antagonistic relationship between modification types with functional significance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7336-7342
Number of pages7
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 4 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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