, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 271-276

Cytological evidence for 5-azacytidine-induced demethylation of the heterochromatic regions of human chromosomes

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Abstract

This work was aimed at studying the effects of the demethylating agent 5-azacytidine (5-azaC) on the constitutive heterochromatin of human chromosomes at the cytological level. Metaphase preparations from peripheral blood lymphocyte and lymphoblastoid cultures obtained by standard methods were treated with the agent. Labelling of the heterochromatic regions was achieved by the indirect immunostaining method using anti-5-methylcytosine (5MeC) monoclonal antibodies and peroxidase-tagged second antibodies. 4-Chloro-1-naphthol (4C1N) was used as the substrate. The rate of methylation of individual chromosomes or chromosome groups was measured as the frequency of binding of anti-5MeC antibodies to specific chromosome regions. The following results were obtained: (i) in control cultures high intra- and interindividual variability in the binding frequencies of anti-5MeC antibodies to the short arm region of the acrocentrics was observed; (ii) 5-azaC consistently affects the methylation status of the constitutive heterochromatin; (iii) preferential demethylation occurs in the heterochromatic regions of specific chromosomes; (iv) under our experimental conditions the demethylating effect of 5-azaC appears not to be related to the well-known uncoiling effect of this drug.

accepted for publication by M. Schmid