High levels of de novo methylation and altered chromatin structure at CpG islands in cell lines

Cell. 1990 Aug 10;62(3):503-14. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(90)90015-7.


CpG islands are normally methylation free in cells of the animal, even when the associated gene is transcriptionally silent. In mouse NIH 3T3 and L cells, however, over half of the islands are heavily methylated. Near identity of the methylated subset in the two cell lines suggested that methylation is confined to genes that are nonessential in culture. In agreement with this, islands at several tissue-specific genes, but not at housekeeping genes, have become methylated in many human and mouse cell lines. At the chromatin level, methylated islands are Mspl resistant compared with their nonmethylated counterparts. We suggest that mutation-like gene inactivation due to CpG island methylation is widespread in many cell lines and could explain the loss of cell type-specific functions in culture.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / isolation & purification
  • Dinucleoside Phosphates*
  • Globins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Methylation
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Thy-1 Antigens
  • Triose-Phosphate Isomerase / genetics


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Chromatin
  • Dinucleoside Phosphates
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins
  • Thy-1 Antigens
  • cytidylyl-3'-5'-guanosine
  • Globins
  • DNA
  • Triose-Phosphate Isomerase