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A Luciferase-EGFP Reporter System for the Evaluation of DNA Methylation in Mammalian Cells

  • Wang, X. X.1
  • Jia, H. J.2
  • Lv, Y. R.1, 2
  • Sun, H. H.1, 2
  • Wei, X. L.3
  • Tan, J. Y.3
  • Jing, Z. Z.2
  • 1 School of Public Health, Lanzhou University,
  • 2 State Key Laboratory of Veterinary of Etiological Biology, Key Laboratory of Veterinary Public Health of Agricultural Ministry, Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences,
  • 3 Institute of Immunology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Lanzhou University,
Published Article
Molecular Biology
Pleiades Publishing
Publication Date
Jun 30, 2021
DOI: 10.1134/S0026893321040099
PMCID: PMC8244672
PubMed Central
  • Article


DNA methylation is an essential epigenetic modification involved in numerous biological processes. Here, we present a cell-based system pLTR-Luc2P-EGFP for evaluation of DNA methylation in mammalian cells. In this system, the expression of reporter gene luciferase2P (Luc2P)-EGFP is under the control of HIV-1 promoter 5' long terminal repeat (LTR), which contains multiple CpG sites. Once these sites are methylated, the expression of Luc2P-EGFP is turned off, which may be visualized under fluorescence microscopy, with quantification performed in luciferase activity assay. As a proof of principle, pLTR-Luc2P-EGFP was methylated in vitro, and transfected into 293T cells, where the reduction of Luc2P-EGFP expression was confirmed. Premixed reporter DNA samples with the methylation levels varying from 0 to 100% were used for quantitative measurements of DNA methylation. The resulting standard curves indicated the accuracy of luciferase activity exceeding that of the Western blotting against EGFP. The Bland–Altman analysis showed that data from luciferase activity assay were in good agreement with the actual DNA methylation levels. In summary, we have established a reporter system coupled with reliable detection technique capable of efficient quantifying the changes in methylation in mammalian cells. This system may be utilized as a high throughput screening tool for identifying molecules that modulate DNA methylation.

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