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Targeted Methylation and Gene Silencing of VEGF-A in Human Cells by Using a Designed Dnmt3a–Dnmt3L Single-Chain Fusion Protein with Increased DNA Methylation Activity

Siddique, Abu Nasar, Nunna, Suneetha, Rajavelu, Arumugam, Zhang, Yingying, Jurkowska, Renata Z., Reinhardt, Richard, Rots, Marianne G., Ragozin, Sergey, Jurkowski, Tomasz P., Jeltsch, Albert
Journal of Molecular Biology 2013 v.425 pp. 479-491
DNA, DNA methylation, amino acids, catalytic activity, cell growth, endothelial cells, enzymes, gene silencing, genes, humans, proteins, vascular endothelial growth factor A
The C-terminal domain of the Dnmt3a de novo DNA methyltransferase (Dnmt3a-C) forms a complex with the C-terminal domain of Dnmt3L, which stimulates its catalytic activity. We generated and characterized single-chain (sc) fusion proteins of both these domains with linker lengths between 16 and 30 amino acid residues. The purified sc proteins showed about 10-fold higher DNA methylation activities than Dnmt3a-C in vitro and were more active in bacterial cells as well. After fusing the Dnmt3a-3L sc enzyme to an artificial zinc-finger protein targeting the vascular endothelial cell growth factor A (VEGF-A) promoter, we demonstrate successful targeting of DNA methylation to the VEGF-A promoter in human cells and observed that almost complete methylation of 12 CpG sites in the gene promoter could be achieved. Targeted methylation by the Dnmt3a-3L sc enzymes was about twofold higher than that of Dnmt3a-C, indicating that Dnmt3a-3L sc variants are more efficient as catalytic modules in chimeric DNA methyltransfeases than Dnmt3a-C. Targeted methylation of the VEGF-A promoter with the Dnmt3a-3L sc variant led to a strong silencing of VEGF-A expression, indicating that the artificial DNA methylation of an endogenous promoter is a powerful strategy to achieve silencing of the corresponding gene in human cells.