DNA methylation and mutation

Mutat Res. 1993 Jan;285(1):61-7. doi: 10.1016/0027-5107(93)90052-h.


5-Methylcytosine (5mC) in DNA is produced by post-synthetic modification of cytosine residues, and it occurs primarily in CpG doublets in the mammalian genome. 5mC is a mutable site, because it can undergo spontaneous deamination to thymine. There is a repair mechanism which specifically recognises G.T mispairs, and replaces thymine with cytosine. However, this repair is not fully efficient, because the 5mC-->T transition mutation occurs about 10 times as frequently as other transitions. Such mutations are frequently seen in inherited diseases, and mutations in the p53 gene in tumours are also very commonly in 5mCpG doublets. As well as mutations, there can also be heritable changes in DNA methylation, known as epimutations, which may be of particular significance in somatic cells. Whereas the pattern of DNA methylation is very constant for any one cell type, the pattern becomes very variable in tumour cells. The breakdown of the normal controls of DNA methylation in tumorigenesis can lead to increased gene expression or to gene silencing. DNA damage increases not only mutation, but also heritable changes in methylation. At present, little is known about the ability of DNA repair to preserve the normal pattern of methylation in somatic cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 5-Methylcytosine
  • Animals
  • Base Composition
  • Cytosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cytosine / analysis
  • Cytosine / metabolism
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • DNA Repair
  • Dinucleoside Phosphates / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasms / genetics


  • Dinucleoside Phosphates
  • cytidylyl-3'-5'-guanosine
  • 5-Methylcytosine
  • Cytosine
  • DNA