Webinar Redux: DNA Methylation Mechanisms and Analysis Methods

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to participate in a webinar given by Dr. Karen Reece, an R & D scientist here at Promega Corporation. The title of the webinar: “DNA Methylation Mechanisms and Analysis Methods to Study this Key Epigenetic Control”.

Karen, a fellow blogger here at Promega Connections, gave an excellent presentation, and as you know, epigenetics is a hot topic these days. 

By definition, epigenetics is the ability of environmental factors to affect gene expression in a heritable manner. From Wikipedia: “In biology, and specifically genetics, epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence .”

Here is a slide from the presentation, showing how heritable traits in mice were affected by diet.


DNA Methylation
Methylation of DNA is one mechanism by which gene expression can be altered by factors external to the genome. Methylation occurs at what is referred to as CpG islands in the DNA, where CpG methyl transferases deposit –CH3 (methyl) groups.

In the webinar, Karen discussed in detail a tool to identify methylated DNA, bisulfite conversion. Bisulfite conversion is the most widely used mechanism for studying DNA methylation. Using bisulfite conversion chemistry, cytosines are converted to uracil, while  methylated cytosines, are not converted. Methylation can thus be detected and studied using a combination of bisulfite conversion and PCR. During the webinar Karen mentioned development of a soon-to-be released Promega product for use in studying DNA methylation. To learn more watch the webinar, or look through her slides, available in pdf on or after September 14, 2012, here .

Take Home Message
Because the webinar will be available for you to enjoy here, I’d like to simply note one of the most important slides and points from this presentation, that of how to assure quality, trustworthy results in your epigenetics/DNA methylation studies. The webinar discusses, in detail, controls that should be included in DNA methylation studies. The following slide from the presentation touches on this topic. I urge  you to watch the complete webinar for important details on how to assure trustworthy results in your methylation research.

(See also slide 41 from the webinar.)

Here are the summary points. I hope we have piqued your interest and you’ll see the webinar for the details.

Finally, here is an interesting epigenetics item published online in Nature today:
High-fat or ethinyl-oestradiol intake during pregnancy increases mammary cancer risk in several generations of offspring”  by de Assis, S. et al.

About the Webinar Series
www.promega.com/webinars provides a schedule of upcoming webinars. In addition there are links to previous webinars that allow you to either view the recording or download a pdf of the presentation. There is also a pdf of additional material available for each past webinar.

To register for a webinar, use the “registration” link at www.promega.com/webinars This allows you to not only view the webinar, but also to participate in the live chat. Need a reminder? You can also sign-up for monthly invitations to webinars at the webinars page (see link above). Note: Live chat is only available for live webinars, not links to recorded webinars.

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Kari Kenefick

Kari has been a science writer/editor for Promega since 1996. Prior to that she enjoyed working in veterinary microbiology/immunology, and has an M.S. in Bacteriology, U of WI-Madison. Favorite topics include infectious disease, inflammation, aging, exercise, nutrition and personality traits. When not writing, she enjoys training her dogs in agility and obedience. About the practice of writing, as we say for cell-based assays, "add-mix-measure".


  1. Thanks for emphasizing the main point: using proper controls in any experiment, but especially those related to bisulfite conversion, are critical to ensure proper interpretation of data!
    I hope people find the info useful and feel free to contact us if questions come up.

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