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ACS Chem Biol. 2012 Jan 20;7(1):20-30. doi: 10.1021/cb2002895. Epub 2011 Oct 31.

The curious chemical biology of cytosine: deamination, methylation, and oxidation as modulators of genomic potential.

Author information

1
Department of Medicine, Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 19104, United States.

Abstract

A multitude of functions have evolved around cytosine within DNA, endowing the base with physiological significance beyond simple information storage. This versatility arises from enzymes that chemically modify cytosine to expand the potential of the genome. Some modifications alter coding sequences, such as deamination of cytosine by AID/APOBEC enzymes to generate immunologic or virologic diversity. Other modifications are critical to epigenetic control, altering gene expression or cellular identity. Of these, cytosine methylation is well understood, in contrast to recently discovered modifications, such as oxidation by TET enzymes to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine. Further complexity results from cytosine demethylation, an enigmatic process that impacts cellular pluripotency. Recent insights help us to propose an integrated DNA demethylation model, accounting for contributions from cytosine oxidation, deamination, and base excision repair. Taken together, this rich medley of alterations renders cytosine a genomic "wild card", whose context-dependent functions make the base far more than a static letter in the code of life.

PMID:
22004246
PMCID:
PMC3262930
DOI:
10.1021/cb2002895
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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