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Cell. 2008 Dec 26;135(7):1201-12. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2008.11.042.

DNA demethylation in zebrafish involves the coupling of a deaminase, a glycosylase, and gadd45.

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  • 1Department of Oncological Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


Evidence for active DNA demethylation in vertebrates is accumulating, but the mechanisms and enzymes remain unclear. Using zebrafish embryos we provide evidence for 5-methylcytosine (5-meC) removal in vivo via the coupling of a 5-meC deaminase (AID, which converts 5-meC to thymine) and a G:T mismatch-specific thymine glycosylase (Mbd4). The injection of methylated DNA into embryos induced a potent DNA demethylation activity, which was attenuated by depletion of AID or the non enzymatic factor Gadd45. Remarkably, overexpression of the deaminase/glycosylase pair AID/Mbd4 in vivo caused demethylation of the bulk genome and injected methylated DNA fragments, likely involving a G:T intermediate. Furthermore, AID or Mbd4 knockdown caused the remethylation of a set of common genes. Finally, Gadd45 promoted demethylation and enhanced functional interactions between deaminase/glycosylase pairs. Our results provide evidence for a coupled mechanism of 5-meC demethylation, whereby AID deaminates 5-meC, followed by thymine base excision by Mbd4, promoted by Gadd45.

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