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Theses Doctoral

Photochemical and Enzymatic Method for DNA Methylation Profiling and Walking Approach for Increasing Read Length of DNA Sequencing by Synthesis

Erturk, Ece

The first half of this dissertation demonstrates development of a novel method for DNA methylation profiling based on site specific conversion of cytosine in CpG sites catalyzed by DNA methyltransferases. DNA methylation, a chemical process by which DNA bases are modified by methyl groups, is one of the key epigenetic mechanisms used by cells to regulate gene expression. It predominantly occurs at the 5-position of cytosines in CpG sites and is essential in normal development. Aberrant methylation is associated with many diseases including cancer. Bisulfite Genomic Sequencing (BGS), the gold standard in DNA methylation profiling, works on the principle of converting unmethylated cytosines to uracils using sodium bisulfite under strong basic conditions that cause extensive DNA damage limiting its applications. This dissertation focuses on the research and development of a new method for single cell whole-genome DNA methylation profiling that will convert the unmethylated cytosines in CpG sites to thymine analogs with the aid of DNA methyltransferase and photo-irradiation. Previously we synthesized a model deoxycytidine containing an optimized allyl chemical group at the 5-position and demonstrated that this molecule undergoes photo-conversion to its deoxythymidine analog (C to T conversion) with irradiation at 300 nm. The C to T conversion also proved feasible using synthetic DNA molecules. In this thesis, we demonstrate the conversion of a novel modified deoxycytidine molecule (PhAll-dC) using 350 nm photo-irradiation and a triplet photosensitizer (thioxanthone, TX) to avoid potential DNA damage. The new photoproduct was identified as the deoxythymidine analog of the starting molecule as assessed by IR, MS and NMR. An AdoMet analog containing the optimized chemical group was also synthesized and tested for enzymatic transfer to the C5-position of CpG cytosines using DNA methyltransferases. DNA methyltansferase M.SssI was engineered for more efficient enzymatic transfer. In the future, we will incorporate a triplet photosensitizer into the photoreactive moiety on AdoMet to increase energy transfer efficiency for photo-conversion of C to the T analog. Incorporating this into an overall method followed by amplification and sequencing should allow us to assess the methylation status of all CpGs in the genome in an efficient manner.
The second half of this dissertation demonstrates development of a DNA sequencing by synthesis (SBS) method, The Sequence Walking Approach, using novel nucleotide reversible terminators (NRTs) together with natural nucleotides. Following the completion of The Human Genome Project, next generation DNA sequencing technologies emerged to overcome the limitations of Sanger Sequencing, the prominent DNA sequencing technology of the time. These technologies led to significant improvements in throughput, accuracy and economics of DNA sequencing. Today, fluorescence-based sequencing by synthesis methods dominate the high-throughput sequencing market. One of the major challenges facing fluorescence-based SBS methods is their read length limitation which constitutes a big barrier for applications such as de novo genome assembly and resolving structurally complex regions of the genome. In this regard, we have developed a novel SBS method called ‘The Sequence Walking Approach’ to overcome current challenges in increasing the single pass read length of DNA sequencing. Our method utilizes three dNTPs together with one nucleotide reversible terminator in reactions called ‘walks’ that terminate at predetermined bases instead of after each incorporation. In this method, the primer extended via 4-color SBS is stripped off and replaced by the original primer for walking reactions. By reducing the accumulation of cleavage artifacts of incorporated NRTs in a single run, our method aims to reach longer read lengths. In this thesis, we have demonstrated a variation of The Sequence Walking Approach in which 4-color sequencing steps are interspersed with walking steps over a continuous length of DNA without stripping off extended primers and reannealing the original primer. The improvements introduced with this method will enable the use of fluorescence-based SBS in many applications such as detection of genomic variants and de novo genome assemblies while preserving low costs and high accuracy.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Chemical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Ju, Jingyue
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 14, 2018