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A finding from Chunxiao Song’s group has implications for the quantification of this epigenetic modification by mass spectrometry.

Modifications of the DNA base cytosine have important roles in biology and their levels are commonly measured using a technique known as mass spectrometry. In this method, the DNA is first broken down into individual bases using enzyme-driven digestion. The mass of these individual units can then be measured and used to distinguish between, and calculate the amount of, each type of modified cytosine. 5-carboxycytosine (5caC) is a low abundance cytosine modification. However, Fang Yuan and colleagues from Chunxiao Song’s laboratory have discovered that 5caC makes DNA resistant to a commonly used enzyme for DNA digestion called PDE1, which results in a dramatic underestimation of the 5caC level. In their publication in the journal RSC Advances, they optimise the digestion method to increase the amount of detectable 5caC.