Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1992 May 15;89(10):4744-8.

Mechanism of human methyl-directed DNA methyltransferase and the fidelity of cytosine methylation.

Author information

City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA.


The properties of the methyl-directed DNA (cytosine-5-)-methyltransferase (EC suggest that it is the enzyme that maintains patterns of methylation in the human genome. Proposals for the enzyme's mechanism of action suggest that 5-methyldeoxycytidine is produced from deoxycytidine via a dihydrocytosine intermediate. We have used an oligodeoxynucleotide containing 5-fluorodeoxycytidine as a suicide substrate to capture the enzyme and the dihydrocytosine intermediate. Gel retardation experiments demonstrate the formation of the expected covalent complex between duplex DNA containing 5-fluorodeoxycytidine and the human enzyme. Formation of the complex was dependent upon the presence of the methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine, suggesting that it comprises an enzyme-linked 5-substituted dihydrocytosine moiety in DNA. Dihydrocytosine derivatives are extremely labile toward hydrolytic deamination in aqueous solution. Because C-to-T transition mutations are especially prevalent at CG sites in human DNA, we have used high-performance liquid chromatography to search for thymidine that might be generated by hydrolysis during the methyl transfer reaction. Despite the potential for deamination inherent in the formation of the intermediate, the methyltransferase did not produce detectable amounts of thymidine. The data suggest that the ability of the human methyltransferase to preserve genetic information when copying a methylation pattern (i.e., its fidelity) is comparable to the ability of a mammalian DNA polymerase to preserve genetic information when copying a DNA sequence. Thus the high frequency of C-to-T transitions at CG sites in human DNA does not appear to be due to the normal enzymatic maintenance of methylation patterns.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center