Histone demethylases and cancer

Adv Cancer Res. 2009;102:103-69. doi: 10.1016/S0065-230X(09)02004-1.


Epigenetic modifications are heritable chromatin alterations that contribute to the temporal and spatial interpretation of the genome. The epigenetic information is conveyed through a multitude of chemical modifications, including DNA methylation, reversible modifications of histones, and ATP-dependent nucleosomal remodeling. Deregulation of the epigenetic machinery contributes to the development of several pathologies, including cancer. Chromatin modifications are multiple and interdependent and they are dynamically modulated in the course of various biological processes. Combinations of chromatin modifications give rise to a complex code that is superimposed on the genetic code embedded into the DNA sequence to regulate cell function. This review addresses the role of epigenetic modifications in cancer, focusing primarily on histone methylation marks and the enzymes catalyzing their removal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating / metabolism*


  • Histones
  • Oxidoreductases, N-Demethylating