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J Biol Chem. 2006 Sep 8;281(36):25893-902. Epub 2006 Jul 7.

Reconstitution and mechanism of the stimulation of de novo methylation by human DNMT3L.

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  • 1Section of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Center for Genetics and Development, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


The DNMT3-like protein, DNMT3L, is required for germ line DNA methylation, although it is inactive as a DNA methyltransferase per se. Previous studies have shown that DNMT3L physically associates with the active de novo DNA methyltransferases, DNMT3A and DNMT3B, and stimulates their catalytic activities in a cell culture system. However, the mechanism by which DNMT3L stimulates de novo methylation remains unclear. Here, we have purified the full-length human DNMT3A2 and DNMT3L proteins and determined unique conditions that allow for the proper reconstitution of the stimulation of DNMT3A2 de novo methyltransferase activity by DNMT3L. These conditions include the use of buffers resembling physiological conditions and the preincubation of the two proteins. Under these conditions, maximal stimulation is reached at equimolar amounts of DNMT3L and DNMT3A2 proteins, and the catalytic efficiency of DNMT3A2 is increased up to 20-fold. Biochemical analysis revealed that whereas DNMT3L on its own does not significantly bind to the methyl group donor, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM), it strongly increases the binding of SAM to DNMT3A2. DNA binding, on the contrary, was not appreciably improved. Analysis of DNA methyltransferase complexes in solution using size exclusion chromatography revealed that DNMT3A2 forms large structures of heterogeneous sizes, whereas DNMT3L appears as a monomer. Binding of DNMT3L to DNMT3A2 promotes a dramatic reorganization of DNMT3A2 subunits and leads to the formation of specific complexes with enhanced DNA methyltransferase activity and increased SAM binding.

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