Methylation of cytosine within DNA is associated with transcriptional repression and genome surveillance. In plants and animals, conserved pathways exist to establish and maintain this epigenetic mark. Mechanisms underlining its removal are, however, diverse and controversial and can depend on DNA synthesis (passive) or be independent of it (active). Ten-eleven translocation (Tet)-mediated conversion of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) into 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) has recently been evoked as a possible mechanism in the initiation of active and passive DNA demethylation. This review discuses the recent progress in this exciting area.
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