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Genetics. 1990 Feb; 124(2): 429–437.
PMCID: PMC1203935

DNA Methylation in Eukaryotes: Kinetics of Demethylation and De Novo Methylation during the Life Cycle


We present a model for the kinetics of methylation and demethylation of eukaryotic DNA; the model incorporates values for de novo methylation and the error rate of maintenance methylation. From the equations, an equilibrium is reached such that the proportion of sites which are newly methylated equals the proportion of sites which become demethylated in a cell generation. This equilibrium is empirically determined as the level of maintenance methylation. We then chose reasonable values for the parameters using maize and mice as model species. In general, if the genome is either hypermethylated or hypomethylated it will approach the equilibrium level of maintenance methylation asymptotically over time; events occurring just once per life cycle to suppress methylation can maintain a relatively hypomethylated state. Although the equations developed are used here as framework for evaluating events in the whole genome, they can also be used to evaluate the rates of methylation and demethylation in specific sites over time.

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Selected References

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