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Biochemistry (Mosc). 2005 Jul;70(7):743-52.

DNA demethylation and carcinogenesis.

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Institute of Carcinogenesis, Blokhin Russian Cancer Research Center, Moscow, 115478, Russia.


DNA methylation plays an important role in the establishment and maintenance of the program of gene expression. Tumor cells are characterized by a paradoxical alteration of DNA methylation pattern: global DNA demethylation and local hypermethylation of certain genes. Hypermethylation and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes are well documented in tumors. The role of global genome demethylation in carcinogenesis is less studied. New data provide evidence for independence of DNA hypo- and hypermethylation processes in tumor cells. These processes alter expression of genes that have different functions in malignant transformation. Recent studies have demonstrated that global decrease in the level of DNA methylation is related to hypomethylation of repeated sequences, increase in genetic instability, hypomethylation and activation of certain genes that favor tumor growth, and increase in their metastatic and invasive potential. The recent data on the role of DNA demethylation in carcinogenesis are discussed in this review. The understanding of relationships between hypo- and hypermethylation in tumor cells is extremely important due to reversibility of DNA methylation and attempts to utilize for anti-tumor therapy the drugs that modify DNA methylation pattern.

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