Studies on DNA methylation and mechanisms of hypomethylation

  • Paul A. Hepburn

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The methylation of cytosinc residues in DNA is thought to play an important role in the regulation of gene expression, with active genes generally being hypomethylated. With this in mind peptides were synthcsised to mimic the cytosine-5 methylation activity carried out by DNA mcthylase, which however, showed no ability to carry out this function.
The imidazotetrazinoncs are a novel group of antitumour agents which have demonstrated good activity against a range of murinc tumours and human tumour xenografts, and hypomethylation of DNA has been implicated in the mechanism of action. Studies have been conducted on the mechanism by which such agents cause hypomethylation, using DNA methylase partially purified from murine L1210 leukaemia cells. Unmodified calf thymus DNA does not inhibit the transfer of methyl groups from SAM to M.lysodeikticus DNA by partially purified DNA methylase. However, if the calf thymus DNA is modified by alkylating agents such as imida-zotetrazinones or nitrosoureas, the treated DNA becomes an inhibitor of the methylation reaction. This has been correlated with the induction of DNA damage, such as single strand breaks, since X-ray treated DNA and deoxyribonuclease treatment produces a similar effect. The mechanism of inhibition by the drug treated or damaged DNA is thought to occur by binding of the enzyme to an increased concentration of non-substrate DNA, presumably by the occurrence of single strand breaks, since neither sonication nor treatment with the restriction enzyme Mspl caused an inhibition.
Attempts were made to elucidate the strict structure activity relationship for antitumour activity observed amongst the imidazotctrazinones. The transfection of a murine colon adcnocarcinoma cell line (MAC 13) with DNA extracted from GM892 or Raji cells previously treated with either the methyl (temozolomide) or ethyl (ethazolastone) imidazotetrazinone was performed. X-irradiated DNA did not cause any suppression of cell growth, suggesting that it was not due to physical damage. Transfection of MAC 13 cells with DNA extracted from GM892 cells, was more effective at inhibiting growth than DNA from Raji cells. Temozolomide treated cellular DNA was a more potent growth inhibitor than that from ethazolastone treated cells. For both agents the growth inhibitory effect was most marked with DNA extracted 6h after drug addition, and after 24h no growth suppression was observed. This suggested that the growth inhibitory effect is due to a repairable lesion.
.The methylation of M.lysodeikticus DNA by DNA methylase is inhibited potently and specifically by both hereto and homoribo and dcoxyri-bopolynucleotides containing guanine residues. The inhibitory effect is unaffected by chain length or sugar residue, but is abolished when the O-6 residue of guanine is substituted as in poly d(OGG)2o. Potent inhibition is also shown by polyinosinic and polyxanthylic acids but not by polyadenylic acid or by heteropolymers containing adcnine and thymine. These results suggest that the 6 position of the purine nucleus is important in binding of the DNA methylase to particular regions of the DNA and that the hydrogen bonding properties of this group are important in enzyme recognition. This was confirmed using synthetic oligonucleotides as substrates for DNA methylase. Enzymatic methylation of cytosine is completely suppressed, when O6 methylguanine replaces guanine in CG sites.
Date of AwardAug 1990
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMichael J Tisdale (Supervisor)


  • DNA alkylation
  • DNA(cytosine-5)methyltransferase
  • hypomethylation
  • imidazotetrazionones
  • 06-methylguanine

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