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Clin Immunol. 2003 Oct;109(1):37-45.

Methylation and demethylation in the regulation of genes, cells, and responses in the immune system.

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Immunological Systems Department, Amgen Inc, 51 University St, Seattle, WA 98101, USA.


DNA methylation is a focus of epigenetic research in the immune system. This overview begins with a synopsis of the players and processes involved in DNA methylation, demethylation, methyl-CpG-recognition, histone modification, and chromatin remodeling. The role of these mechanisms in immune responses, with a focus on T lymphocytes, is then reviewed. There is evidence for epigenetic regulation of several key immune processes including thymocyte development, antigen presentation, differentiation, cytokine expression, effector function, and memory. DNA methylation contributes, along with other epigenetic mechanisms, to the establishment of transcriptional thresholds that vary between genes and T cell types. The immune system is a fertile field for studies of epigenetic regulation of cell fate and function.

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