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Epigenomics. 2013 Dec;5(6):645-54. doi: 10.2217/epi.13.62.

How has the study of the human placenta aided our understanding of partially methylated genes?

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Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Genome Center, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


While the human genome sequence is relatively uniform between the cells of an individual, the DNA methylation of the genome (methylome) has unique features in different cells, tissues and stages of development. Recent genome-wide sequencing of the methylome has revealed large partially methylated domains (PMDs) in the human placenta. Unlike CpG islands and Polycomb-regulated regions, which can also have low levels of methylation, placental PMDs cover approximately 37% of the human genome and are associated with inaccessible chromatin and the repression of tissue-specific genes. Here, we summarize the interesting biological questions that have arisen as a result of finding PMDs in the human placenta, including how PMDs form, what they do, how they evolved and how they might be relevant to human disease.

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