N6-Methyladenine: A Conserved and Dynamic DNA Mark

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016:945:213-246. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-43624-1_10.


Chromatin, consisting of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) wrapped around histone proteins, facilitates DNA compaction and allows identical DNA codes to confer many different cellular phenotypes. This biological versatility is accomplished in large part by posttranslational modifications to histones and chemical modifications to DNA. These modifications direct the cellular machinery to expand or compact specific chromatin regions and mark regions of the DNA as important for cellular functions. While each of the four bases that make up DNA can be modified (Iyer et al. 2011), this chapter will focus on methylation of the sixth position on adenines (6mA), as this modification has been poorly characterized in recently evolved eukaryotes, but shows promise as a new conserved layer of epigenetic regulation. 6mA was previously thought to be restricted to unicellular organisms, but recent work has revealed its presence in metazoa. Here, we will briefly describe the history of 6mA, examine its evolutionary conservation, and evaluate the current methods for detecting 6mA. We will discuss the enzymes that bind and regulate this mark and finally examine known and potential functions of 6mA in eukaryotes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / chemistry*
  • Adenine / metabolism
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Histones / genetics
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • DNA
  • Adenine