DNA Methylation in Solid Tumors: Functions and Methods of Detection

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Apr 19;22(8):4247. doi: 10.3390/ijms22084247.


DNA methylation, i.e., addition of methyl group to 5'-carbon of cytosine residues in CpG dinucleotides, is an important epigenetic modification regulating gene expression, and thus implied in many cellular processes. Deregulation of DNA methylation is strongly associated with onset of various diseases, including cancer. Here, we review how DNA methylation affects carcinogenesis process and give examples of solid tumors where aberrant DNA methylation is often present. We explain principles of methods developed for DNA methylation analysis at both single gene and whole genome level, based on (i) sodium bisulfite conversion, (ii) methylation-sensitive restriction enzymes, and (iii) interactions of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) with methyl-binding proteins or antibodies against 5mC. In addition to standard methods, we describe recent advances in next generation sequencing technologies applied to DNA methylation analysis, as well as in development of biosensors that represent their cheaper and faster alternatives. Most importantly, we highlight not only advantages, but also disadvantages and challenges of each method.

Keywords: DNA biosensor; DNA methylation; bisulfite conversion; epigenetic modification; restriction enzyme; tumor; tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / physiology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Humans


  • 5-Methylcytosine