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J Biol Chem. 1999 Mar 26;274(13):8363-6.

DNA demethylase is a processive enzyme.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1Y6, Canada.


DNA methylation patterns are generated during development by a sequence of methylation and demethylation events. We have recently demonstrated that mammals bear a bona fide demethylase enzyme that removes methyl groups from methylated cytosines. A general genome wide demethylation occurs early in development and in differentiating cell lines. This manuscript tests the hypothesis that the demethylase enzyme is a processive enzyme. Using bisulfite mapping, this report demonstrates that demethylase is a processive enzyme and that the rate-limiting step in demethylation is the initiation of demethylation. Initiation of demethylation is determined by the properties of the sequence. Once initiated, demethylation progresses processively. We suggest that these data provide a molecular explanation for global hypomethylation.

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