The role of mammalian DNA methyltransferases in the regulation of gene expression

Cell Mol Biol Lett. 2005;10(4):631-47.


The term epigenetic modification denotes reversible traits of gene expression that do not include alterations to the DNA sequence. These epigenetic alterations are responsible for chromatin structure stability, genome integrity, modulation of tissue-specific gene expression, embryonic development, genomic imprinting and X-chromosome inactivation in females. Epigenetic changes include reversible DNA methylation and histone acetylation or methylation. The modification of mammalian genomic DNA includes the methylation at the 5-position of the cytosine (C) residue within cytosine-guanine dinucleotides (CpG), resulting in the formation of 5-methylcytosine (m5C). Regulatory DNA sequences in vertebrates often have little or no methylation. The methylation of mammalian genomic DNA is catalyzed by DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs), which play a special role in the initiation of chromatin remodeling and gene expression regulation. The mammalian DNMTs are DNMT1, DNMT3A and DNMT3B, which together with accessory proteins, like DNMT3L, are responsible for methylation pattern acquisition during gametogenesis, embryogenesis and somatic tissue development. Reversible epigenetic alterations lead to selective utilization of genome information through the activation or inactivation of transcription of functional genes during gametogenesis, embryogenesis and cell differentiation. Recently, several disparate isoforms of DNMT1 were identified in human somatic and female and male germ cells. Recent advances in the investigation of DNMT function in epigenetic DNA changes have formed the basis of the understanding of various disorder etiopathogeneses, and as a result, have facilitated and enabled new therapies with respect to these diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / chemistry
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Protein Isoforms
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases