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FEBS Lett. 1990 Aug 1;268(2):329-33.

Eukaryotic DNA methylation: facts and problems.

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  • 1Institute for Genetics, University of Cologne, FRG.


Patterns of DNA methylation in complex genomes like those of mammalian cells have been viewed as indicators of different levels of genetic activities. It is as yet unknown how these complicated patterns are generated and maintained during cell replication. There is evidence from many different biological systems that the sequence-specific methylation of promoters in higher eukaryotes is one of the important factors in controlling gene activity at a long-term level. In general, the fifth nucleotide 5-methyldeoxycytidine can be considered as a modulator of protein-DNA interactions. The degree and direction of this modulation has to be assessed experimentally in each individual instance. The establishment of de novo patterns of DNA methylation is characterized by the gradual non-random spreading of DNA methylation by an essentially unknown mechanism. In this review, some of the general concepts of DNA methylation in mammalian systems are presented, and research currently performed in the authors' laboratory has been summarized.

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