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Aberrant methylation changes, often present in a minor allelic fraction in clinical samples such as plasma-circulating DNA (cfDNA), are potentially powerful prognostic and predictive biomarkers in human disease including cancer. We report on a novel, highly-multiplexed approach to facilitate analysis of clinically useful methylation changes in minor DNA populations. Methylation Specific Nuclease-assisted Minor-allele Enrichment (MS-NaME) employs a double-strand-specific DNA nuclease (DSN) to remove excess DNA with normal methylation patterns. The technique utilizes oligonucleotide-probes that direct DSN activity to multiple targets in bisulfite-treated DNA, simultaneously. Oligonucleotide probes targeting unmethylated sequences generate local double stranded regions resulting to digestion of unmethylated targets, and leaving methylated targets intact; and vice versa. Subsequent amplification of the targeted regions results in enrichment of the targeted methylated or unmethylated minority-epigenetic-alleles. We validate MS-NaME by demonstrating enrichment of RARb2, ATM, MGMT and GSTP1 promoters in multiplexed MS-NaME reactions (177-plex) using dilutions of methylated/unmethylated DNA and in DNA from clinical lung cancer samples and matched normal tissue. MS-NaME is a highly scalable single-step approach performed at the genomic DNA level in solution that combines with most downstream detection technologies including Sanger sequencing, methylation-sensitive-high-resolution melting (MS-HRM) and methylation-specific-Taqman-based-digital-PCR (digital Methylight) to boost detection of low-level aberrant methylation-changes.

Original publication




Journal article


Nucleic acids research

Publication Date





Department of Radiation Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Humans, Lung Neoplasms, Sulfites, Deoxyribonucleases, DNA, Oligonucleotide Probes, Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques, Sequence Analysis, DNA, DNA Methylation, Alleles, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction