Epigenetic modification of gene expression in cancer cells by terahertz demethylation

Hwayeong Cheon, Junho K. Hur, Woochang Hwang, Hee Jin Yang, Joo Hiuk Son

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Terahertz (THz) radiation can affect the degree of DNA methylation, the spectral characteristics of which exist in the terahertz region. DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification in which a methyl (CH3) group is attached to cytosine, a nucleobase in human DNA. Appropriately controlled DNA methylation leads to proper regulation of gene expression. However, abnormal gene expression that departs from controlled genetic transcription through aberrant DNA methylation may occur in cancer or other diseases. In this study, we demonstrate the modification of gene expression in cells by THz demethylation using resonant THz radiation. Using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, we observed changes in the degree of global DNA methylation in the SK-MEL-3 melanoma cell line under irradiation with 1.6-THz radiation with limited spectral bandwidth. Resonant THz radiation demethylated living melanoma cells by 19%, with no significant occurrence of apurinic/apyrimidinic sites, and the demethylation ratio was linearly proportional to the power of THz radiation. THz demethylation downregulates FOS, JUN, and CXCL8 genes, which are involved in cancer and apoptosis pathways. Our results show that THz demethylation has the potential to be a gene expression modifier with promising applications in cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4930
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


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