DNA methylation, methyltransferases, and cancer

Oncogene. 2001 May 28;20(24):3139-55. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1204341.


The field of epigenetics has recently moved to the forefront of studies relating to diverse processes such as transcriptional regulation, chromatin structure, genome integrity, and tumorigenesis. Recent work has revealed how DNA methylation and chromatin structure are linked at the molecular level and how methylation anomalies play a direct causal role in tumorigenesis and genetic disease. Much new information has also come to light regarding the cellular methylation machinery, known as the DNA methyltransferases, in terms of their roles in mammalian development and the types of proteins they are known to interact with. This information has forced a new view for the role of DNA methyltransferases. Rather than enzymes that act in isolation to copy methylation patterns after replication, the types of interactions discovered thus far indicate that DNA methyltransferases may be components of larger complexes actively involved in transcriptional control and chromatin structure modulation. These new findings will likely enhance our understanding of the myriad roles of DNA methylation in disease as well as point the way to novel therapies to prevent or repair these defects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • DNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases