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Mol Cancer Res. 2004 Jan;2(1):62-72.

Role of the DNA methyltransferase variant DNMT3b3 in DNA methylation.

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  • 1Urologic Cancer Research Laboratory, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern California/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck School of Medicine, 1441 Eastlake Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-9181, USA.


Several alternatively spliced variants of DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) 3b have been described. Here, we identified new murine Dnmt3b mRNA isoforms and found that mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells expressed only Dnmt3b transcripts that contained exons 10 and 11, whereas the Dnmt3b transcripts in somatic cells lacked these exons, suggesting that this region is important for embryonic development. DNMT3b2 and 3b3 were the major isoforms expressed in human cell lines and the mRNA levels of these isoforms closely correlated with their protein levels. Although DNMT3b3 may be catalytically inactive, it still may be biologically important because D4Z4 and satellites 2 and 3 repeat sequences, all known DNMT3b target sequences, were methylated in cells that predominantly expressed DNMT3b3. Treatment of cells with the mechanism-based inhibitor 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-Aza-CdR) caused a complete depletion of DNMT1, 3a, 3b1, and 3b2 proteins. Human DNMT3b3 and the murine Dnmt3b3-like isoform, Dnmt3b6, were also depleted although less efficiently, suggesting that DNMT3b3 also may be capable of DNA binding. Moreover, de novo methylation of D4Z4 in T24 cancer cells after 5-Aza-CdR treatment only occurred when DNMT3b3 was expressed, reinforcing its role as a contributing factor of DNA methylation. The expression of either DNMT3b2 or 3b3, however, was not sufficient to explain the abnormal methylation of DNMT3b target sequences in human cancers, which may therefore be dependent on factors that affect DNMT3b targeting. Methylation analyses of immunodeficiency, chromosomal instabilities, and facial abnormalities cells revealed that an Alu repeat sequence was highly methylated, suggesting that Alu sequences are not DNMT3b targets.

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