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Methylated Cytosine Maintains G‑Quadruplex Structures during Polymerase Chain Reaction and Contributes to Allelic Dropout

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journal contribution
posted on 22.06.2017 by Aaron J. Stevens, Martin A. Kennedy
The promoter of the human imprinted gene MEST is differentially methylated with respect to the parent of origin and contains several non B-DNA motifs that are capable of forming G-quadruplexes. These factors can contribute to a consistent allelic dropout (ADO) of the maternally methylated DNA during polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of such gene regions. Here, we directly investigate the cause of allelic dropout by applying fluorescent techniques to visualize polymerase amplification and arrest during PCR of differentially methylated DNA templates. We demonstrate that polymerase arrest corresponds to previously characterized G-quadruplex-forming motifs at the MEST promoter region and occurs at equivalent sites on both methylated and nonmethylated DNA templates. However, during PCR, polymerase arrest can be observed on the methylated template for several cycles longer than on the nonmethylated template, and this results in an amplification lag and a lower yield of full length amplicons. We demonstrate that this delay in amplification is sufficient to cause complete ADO during PCR, providing a mechanistic basis for the previously observed genotyping error at this locus.