DNA methylation is an important modification of DNA that plays a role in genome management and in regulating gene expression during development. Methylation is carried out by DNA methyltransferases which catalyse the transfer of a methyl group to bases within the DNA helix. Plants have at least three classes of cytosine methyltransferase which differ in protein structure and function. The METI family, homologues of the mouse Dnmtl methyltransferase, most likely function as maintenance methyltransferases, but may also play a role in de novo methylation. The chromomethylases, which are unique to plants, may preferentially methylate DNA in heterochromatin; the remaining class, with similarity to Dnmt3 methyltransferases of mammals, are putative de novo methyltransferases. The various classes of methyltransferase may show differential activity on cytosines in different sequence contexts. Chromomethylases may preferentially methylate cytosines in CpNpG sequences while the Arabidopsis METI methyltransferase shows a preference for cytosines in CpG sequences. Additional proteins, for example DDM1, a member of the SNF2/SWI2 family of chromatin remodelling proteins, are also required for methylation of plant DNA.