Characterizing DNA methyltransferases with an ultrasensitive luciferase-linked continuous assay

Ivan Hemeon, Jemy A. Gutierrez, Meng Chiao Ho, Vern L. Schramm

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34 Scopus citations


DNA (cytosine-5)-methyltransferases (DNMTs) catalyze the transfer of a methyl group from S-adenosyl-l-methionine (AdoMet) to the 5-position of cytosine residues and thereby silence transcription of regulated genes. DNMTs are important epigenetic targets. However, isolated DNMTs are weak catalysts and are difficult to assay. We report an ultrasensitive luciferase-linked continuous assay that converts the S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine product of DNA methylation to a quantifiable luminescent signal. Results with this assay are compared with the commonly used DNA labeling from [methyl-3H]AdoMet. A 5′-methylthioadenosine-adenosylhomocysteine nucleosidase is used to hydrolyze AdoHcy to adenine. Adenine phosphoribosyl transferase converts adenine to AMP and pyruvate orthophosphate dikinase converts AMP to ATP. Firefly luciferase gives a stable luminescent signal that results from continuous AMP recycling to ATP. This assay exhibits a broad dynamic range (0.1-1000 pmol of AdoHcy). The rapid response time permits continuous assays of DNA methylation detected by light output. The assay is suitable for high-throughput screening of chemical libraries for DNMT inhibition activity. The kinetic properties of human and bacterial CpG methyltransferases are characterized using this assay. Human catalytic domain DNMT3b activation by DNMT3L is shown to involve two distinct kinetic states that alter kcat but not Km for AdoMet. The assay is shown to be robust in the presence of high concentrations of the pyrimidine analogues 5-azacytidine and 5-azacytosine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4996-5004
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry


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