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Cancer. 2011 Feb 15;117(4):677-87. doi: 10.1002/cncr.25482. Epub 2010 Oct 13.

The role of epigenetic transcription repression and DNA methyltransferases in cancer.

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  • 1School of Dentistry, Oral Medicine Division, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. fidaniel@brturbo.com.br

Abstract

Epigenetic alterations such as DNA methylation have been implicated in the development and progression of various cancers. DNA methylation consists of the reversible addition of a methyl group to the carbon 5 position of cytosine in CpG dinucleotides and is considered essential for normal embryonic development. However, global genomic hypomethylation and aberrant hypermethylation of regulatory regions of tumor suppressor genes have been associated with chromosomal instability and transcription repression, respectively, providing neoplastic cells with a selective advantage. DNA methyltransferases are the enzymes responsible for the addition of methyl groups to CpG dinucleotides, which, together with histone modifiers, initiate the events necessary for transcription repression to occur. It has been demonstrated that increased expression of DNA methyltransferases may contribute to tumor progression through methylation-mediated gene inactivation in various human cancers. Given their importance, this article reviews the main epigenetic mechanisms for regulating transcription and its implications in cancer development.

Copyright © 2010 American Cancer Society.

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