Methylation of DNA is one of the mechanisms controlling the expression landscape of the genome. Its pattern is altered in cancer and often results in the hypermethylation of the promoter regions and abnormal expression of tumour suppressor genes. Methylation of CpG dinucleotides located in the binding sites of transcription factors may contribute to the development of cancers by preventing their binding or altering their specificity. We studied the effects of CpG methylation on DNA recognition by the tumour suppressor p53, a transcription factor involved in the response to carcinogenic stress. p53 recognises a large number of DNA sequences, many of which contain CpG dinucleotides. We systematically substituted a CpG dinucleotide at each position in the consensus p53 DNA binding sequence and identified substitutions tolerated by p53. We compared the binding affinities of methylated versus non-methylated sequences by fluorescence anisotropy titration. We found that binding of p53 was not affected by cytosine methylation in a majority of cases. However, for a few sequences containing multiple CpG dinucleotides, such as sites in the RB and Met genes, methylation resulted in a four- to sixfold increase in binding of p53. This approach can be used to quantify the effects of CpG methylation on the DNA recognition by other DNA-binding proteins
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