Project Description

The code of life is more than a sequence of A’s, C’s, T’s and G’s; epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation, are powerful and heritable regulators of gene expression. Targeted methyltransferases are enzymes that catalyze sequence-specific methylation – the most useful tool for engineering the epigenome. With a synthetic biology approach, we developed an assay to test targeted methyltransferases without expensive, time-consuming traditional methods. Our modular single-plasmid system allows methyltransferases to be easily cloned and tested via inexpensive digestion assays, quickly measuring the existence and extent of targeted methylation. Additionally, our plasmid contains standardized primer-binding sites for methylation-sensitive sequencing, and our E. coli chassis effectively eliminated noise associated with methylation studies. We are using this assay to characterize our novel targeted methyltransferases, which could be used to study epigenetic modifications. In the future, synthetic biologists could embrace these tools to explore the next frontier in engineering biological systems: the epigenome.