Quantification of Global DNA Methylation Levels by Mass Spectrometry
Global DNA methylation was classically considered the relative percentage of 5-methylcysine (5mC) with respect to total cytosine (C). Early approaches were based on the use of high-performance separation technologies and UV detection. However, the recent development of protocols using mass spectrometry for the detection has increased sensibility and permitted the precise identification of peak compounds based on their molecular masses. This allows work to be conducted with much less genomic DNA starting material and also to quantify 5-hydroxymethyl-cytosine (5hmC), a recently identified form of methylated cytosine that could play an important role in active DNA demethylation. Here, we describe the protocol that we currently use in our laboratory to analyze 5mC and 5hmC by mass spectrometry. The protocol, which is based on the method originally developed by Le and colleagues using Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography (UPLC) and mass spectrometry (triple Quadrupole (QqQ)) detection, allows for the rapid and accurate quantification of relative global 5mC and 5hmC levels starting from just 1 μg of genomic DNA, which allows for the rapid and accurate quantification of relative global 5mC and 5hmC levels.