DNA methylation plays an important role in animal development and gene regulation. In mammals, several genes encoding DNA cytosine methyltransferases have been identified. DNMT1 is constitutively expressed and is required for the maintenance of global methylation after DNA replication. In contrast, the murine Dnmt3 family genes appear to be developmentally regulated and behave like de novo DNA methyltransferases in vitro. In this study, we have cloned human DNMT3A and DNMT3B that encode full-length DNMT3A and DNMT3B proteins with 98% and 94% amino acid sequence identity to their murine homologues. The DNMT3A and DNMT3B show high homology in the carboxy terminal catalytic domain and contain a conserved cysteine-rich region, which shares homology with the X-linked ATRX gene of the SNF2/SWI family. We have mapped human DNMT3A and DNMT3B to chromosomes 2p23 and 20q11.2 respectively, and determined the DNMT3B genomic structure. We further show that DNMT3A expression is ubiquitous and can be readily detected in most adult tissues, whereas DNMT3B is expressed at very low levels in most tissues except testis, thyroid and bone marrow. Significantly, both DNMT3A and DNMT3B expression is elevated in several tumor cell lines to levels comparable to DNMT1. The cloning of the human DNMT3 genes will facilitate further biochemical and genetic studies of their functions in establishment of DNA methylation patterns, regulation of gene expression and tumorigenesis.