Differential DNA methylation as a tool for noninvasive prenatal diagnosis (NIPD) of X chromosome aneuploidies.

Institute of Genetics and Biophysics A. Buzzati Traverso, Naples, Italy.
The Journal of molecular diagnostics: JMD (Impact Factor: 3.48). 11/2010; 12(6):797-807. DOI: 10.2353/jmoldx.2010.090199
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The demographic tendency in industrial countries to delay childbearing, coupled with the maternal age effect in common chromosomal aneuploidies and the risk to the fetus of invasive prenatal diagnosis, are potent drivers for the development of strategies for noninvasive prenatal diagnosis. One breakthrough has been the discovery of differentially methylated cell-free fetal DNA in the maternal circulation. We describe novel bisulfite conversion- and methylation-sensitive enzyme digestion DNA methylation-related approaches that we used to diagnose Turner syndrome from first trimester samples. We used an X-linked marker, EF3, and an autosomal marker, RASSF1A, to discriminate between placental and maternal blood cell DNA using real-time methylation-specific PCR after bisulfite conversion and real-time PCR after methylation-sensitive restriction digestion. By normalizing EF3 amplifications versus RASSF1A outputs, we were able to calculate sex chromosome/autosome ratios in chorionic villus samples, thus permitting us to correctly diagnose Turner syndrome. The identification of this new marker coupled with the strategy outlined here may be instrumental in the development of an efficient, noninvasive method of diagnosis of sex chromosome aneuploidies in plasma samples.

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    ABSTRACT: RASSF1A has been described to be differentially methylated between fetal and maternal DNA and can therefore be used as a universal sex-independent marker to confirm the presence of fetal sequences in maternal plasma. However, this requires highly sensitive methods. We have previously shown that Pyrophosphorolysis-activated Polymerization (PAP) is a highly sensitive technique that can be used in noninvasive prenatal diagnosis. In this study, we have used PAP in combination with bisulfite conversion to develop a new universal methylation-based assay for the detection of fetal methylated RASSF1A sequences in maternal plasma. Bisulfite sequencing was performed on maternal genomic (g)DNA and fetal gDNA from chorionic villi to determine differentially methylated regions in the RASSF1A gene using bisulfite specific PCR primers. Methylation specific primers for PAP were designed for the detection of fetal methylated RASSF1A sequences after bisulfite conversion and validated. Serial dilutions of fetal gDNA in a background of maternal gDNA show a relative percentage of ∼3% can be detected using this assay. Furthermore, fetal methylated RASSF1A sequences were detected both retrospectively as well as prospectively in all maternal plasma samples tested (n = 71). No methylated RASSF1A specific bands were observed in corresponding maternal gDNA. Specificity was further determined by testing anonymized plasma from non-pregnant females (n = 24) and males (n = 21). Also, no methylated RASSF1A sequences were detected here, showing this assay is very specific for methylated fetal DNA. Combining all samples and controls, we obtain an overall sensitivity and specificity of 100% (95% CI 98.4%-100%). Our data demonstrate that using a combination of bisulfite conversion and PAP fetal methylated RASSF1A sequences can be detected with extreme sensitivity in a universal and sex-independent manner. Therefore, this assay could be of great value as an addition to current techniques used in noninvasive prenatal diagnostics.
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