Epigenetic cross-talk between DNA methylation and histone modifications in human cancers

Yonsei Med J. 2009 Aug 31;50(4):455-63. doi: 10.3349/ymj.2009.50.4.455. Epub 2009 Aug 19.


DNA methylation, histone modifications, and the chromatin structure are profoundly altered in human cancers. The silencing of cancer-related genes by these epigenetic regulators is recognized as a key mechanism in tumor formation. Recent findings revealed that DNA methylation and histone modifications appear to be linked to each other. However, it is not clearly understood how the formation of histone modifications may affect DNA methylation and which genes are relevantly involved with tumor formation. The presence of histone modifications does not always link to DNA methylation in human cancers, which suggests that another factor is required to connect these two epigenetic mechanisms. In this review, examples of studies that demonstrated the relationship between histone modifications and DNA methylation in human cancers are presented and the potential implications of these epigenetic mechanisms in human neoplasia are discussed.

Keywords: DNA methylation; Histone methylation; histone methyltransferase.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation / physiology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology*
  • Histone Methyltransferases
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / genetics*


  • Histones
  • Histone Methyltransferases
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase