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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2004;60:55-89.

Structure and function of eukaryotic DNA methyltransferases.

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Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.


DNA methylation is a common epigenetic modification found in eukaryotic organisms ranging from fungi to mammals. Over the past 15 years, a number of eukaryotic DNA methyltransferases have been identified from various model organisms. These enzymes exhibit distinct biochemical properties and biological functions, partly due to their structural differences. The highly variable N-terminal extensions of these enzymes harbor various evolutionarily conserved domains and motifs, some of which have been shown to be involved in functional specializations. DNA methylation has divergent functions in different organisms, consistent with the notion that it is a dynamically evolving mechanism that can be adapted to fulfill various functions. Genetic studies using model organisms have provided evidence suggesting the progressive integration of DNA methylation into eukaryotic developmental programs during evolution.

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