APOBECs orchestrate genomic and epigenomic editing across health and disease

Trends Genet. 2021 Nov;37(11):1028-1043. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2021.07.003. Epub 2021 Aug 2.


APOBEC proteins can deaminate cytosine residues in DNA and RNA. This can lead to somatic mutations, DNA breaks, RNA modifications, or DNA demethylation in a selective manner. APOBECs function in various cellular compartments and recognize different nucleic acid motifs and structures. They orchestrate a wide array of genomic and epigenomic modifications, thereby affecting various cellular functions positively or negatively, including immune editing, viral and retroelement restriction, DNA damage responses, DNA demethylation, gene expression, and tissue homeostasis. Furthermore, the cumulative increase in genomic and epigenomic editing with aging could also, at least in part, be attributed to APOBEC function. We synthesize our cumulative understanding of APOBEC activity in a unifying overview and discuss their genomic and epigenomic impact in physiological, pathological, and technological contexts.

Keywords: AID/APOBEC; adaptive and innate immunity; cancer immunity; cytosine deaminases; epigenomic editing; genomic editing; immune diversity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • APOBEC Deaminases* / genetics
  • APOBEC Deaminases* / metabolism
  • Cytidine Deaminase / genetics
  • Cytidine Deaminase / metabolism
  • Epigenomics*
  • Genome
  • Genomics
  • Retroelements


  • Retroelements
  • APOBEC Deaminases
  • Cytidine Deaminase