The effects of DNA cytosine methylation on H-ras promoter structure and function

Mack James Rachal, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The effect of DNA cytosine methylation on H-ras promoter activity was assessed using a transient expression system employing the plasmid H-rasCAT (NaeI H-ras promoter linked to the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene). This 551 bp promoter is 80% GC rich, enriched with 168 CpG dinucleotides, and contains six functional GC box elements which represent major DNA methylation target sites. Prokaryotic methyltransferases HhaI (CGm$\sp5$CG) and HpaII (Cm$\sp5$CGG) alone or in combination with a human placental methyltransferase (HP MTase) were used to introduce methyl groups at different CpG sites within the promoter. To test for functional promoter activity, the methylated plasmids were introduced into CV-1 cells and CAT activity assessed 48 h post-transfection. Methylation at specific HhaI and HpaII sites reduced CAT expression by 70%, whereas more extensive methylation at generalized CpG sites with HP MTase inactivated the promoter $>$95%. The inhibition of H-ras promoter activity was not attributable to methylation-induced differences in DNA uptake or stability in the cell, topological form of the plasmid, or methylation effects in nonpromoter regions. We also observed that DNA cytosine methylation of a 360 bp promoter fragment by HP MTase induced a local change in DNA conformation. Using three independent methodologies (nitrocellulose filter binding assays, gel mobility shifts, and Southwestern blots), we determined that this change in promoter conformation affected the interaction of nuclear proteins with cis-regulatory sequences residing in the promoter region. The results provide evidence to suggest that DNA methylation may regulate gene expression by inducing changes in local promoter conformation which in turn alters the interactions between DNA and protein factors required for transcription. The results provide supportive evidence for the hypothesis of Cedar and Riggs, who postulated that DNA methylation may regulate gene expression by altering the binding affinities of proteins for DNA.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Rachal, Mack James, "The effects of DNA cytosine methylation on H-ras promoter structure and function" (1989). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9015718.