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Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Sep 1;39(16):6956-69. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkr263. Epub 2011 May 27.

Nucleosomes protect DNA from DNA methylation in vivo and in vitro.

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Institut für Biochemie III, Universität Regensburg, Universitätsstr. 31, 93053 Regensburg, Germany.


Positioned nucleosomes limit the access of proteins to DNA. However, the impact of nucleosomes on DNA methylation in vitro and in vivo is poorly understood. Here, we performed a detailed analysis of nucleosome binding and nucleosomal DNA methylation by the de novo methyltransferases. We show that compared to linker DNA, nucleosomal DNA is largely devoid of CpG methylation. ATP-dependent chromatin remodelling frees nucleosomal CpG dinucleotides and renders the remodelled nucleosome a 2-fold better substrate for Dnmt3a methyltransferase compared to free DNA. These results reflect the situation in vivo, as quantification of nucleosomal DNA methylation levels in HeLa cells shows a 2-fold decrease of nucleosomal DNA methylation levels compared to linker DNA. Our findings suggest that nucleosomal positions are stably maintained in vivo and nucleosomal occupancy is a major determinant of global DNA methylation patterns in vivo.

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