The limitations of locus specific methylation qualification and quantification in clinical material

Front Genet. 2012 Feb 28;3:21. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00021. eCollection 2012.


The terms methylation quantification and qualification seem self-explanatory however, the results of experiments aiming to quantify or qualify locus specific methylation in clinical material are often difficult to interpret. There are three main reasons for difficulties in understanding methylation status measurement. First, the complexity of locus specific methylation patterns, which oscillate between unmethylated, fully methylated, and heterogeneously methylated. Second the interpretation of methylation-screening results can frequently be problematic due to limitations of the methods used. And finally the specifications of the clinical samples used in laboratory practice frequently hamper the methylation measurement. Thus, the process of quantification and qualification of methylation has to be discussed with consideration of the specific locus analyzed, the methodology used, and the clinical material source used in each specific experiment. The question of the clinical significance of determination of different methylation levels is even more complicated, with substantial evidence for correlation between qualitative methylation changes and clinical features of the disease and at the same time no data showing that different relative levels of methylation alter the disease outcome. The limitations of methylation quantification and qualification are discussed in this mini-review.

Keywords: MIP; MSP; cancer; methylation; qualification; quantification.