Histone methylation: a dynamic mark in health, disease and inheritance

Nat Rev Genet. 2012 Apr 3;13(5):343-57. doi: 10.1038/nrg3173.


Organisms require an appropriate balance of stability and reversibility in gene expression programmes to maintain cell identity or to enable responses to stimuli; epigenetic regulation is integral to this dynamic control. Post-translational modification of histones by methylation is an important and widespread type of chromatin modification that is known to influence biological processes in the context of development and cellular responses. To evaluate how histone methylation contributes to stable or reversible control, we provide a broad overview of how histone methylation is regulated and leads to biological outcomes. The importance of appropriately maintaining or reprogramming histone methylation is illustrated by its links to disease and ageing and possibly to transmission of traits across generations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis / metabolism
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Histone Demethylases / metabolism
  • Histone Methyltransferases
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylation
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Rats


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