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Mol Cell Biol. 2000 May;20(10):3434-41.

SINE retroposons can be used in vivo as nucleation centers for de novo methylation.

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  • 1Biomove, UMR6547 CNRS, Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand II, 63177 Aubière Cedex, France.


SINEs (short interspersed elements) are an abundant class of transposable elements found in a wide variety of eukaryotes. Using the genomic sequencing technique, we observed that plant S1 SINE retroposons mainly integrate in hypomethylated DNA regions and are targeted by methylases. Methylation can then spread from the SINE into flanking genomic sequences, creating distal epigenetic modifications. This methylation spreading is vectorially directed upstream or downstream of the S1 element, suggesting that it could be facilitated when a potentially good methylatable sequence is single stranded during DNA replication, particularly when located on the lagging strand. Replication of a short methylated DNA region could thus lead to the de novo methylation of upstream or downstream adjacent sequences.

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