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J Biol Chem. 1984 Oct 25;259(20):12437-43.

DNA methylation. Inhibition of de novo and maintenance methylation in vitro by RNA and synthetic polynucleotides.


A partially purified HeLa cell DNA methylase will methylate a totally unmethylated DNA (de novo methylation) at about 3-4% the rate it will methylate a hemimethylated DNA template (maintenance methylation). Our evidence suggests that many, if not most, dCpdG sequences in a natural or synthetic DNA can be methylated by the enzyme. There is a powerful inhibitor of DNA methylase activity in crude extracts which has been identified as RNA. The inhibition of DNA methylase by RNA may indicate that this enzyme is regulated in vivo by the presence of RNA at specific chromosomal sites. The pattern of binding of RNA to DNA in the nucleosome structure and the DNA replication complex may determine specific sites of DNA methylation. An even more potent inhibition of DNA methylase activity is observed with poly(G), but not poly(C), poly(A), or poly(U). The only other synthetic polynucleotides studied which inhibit DNA methylation as well as poly(G) are the homopolymers poly(dC).poly(dG) and poly (dA).poly(dT). These results point out the unique importance of the guanine residue itself in the binding of the DNA methylase to dCpdG, the site of cytosine methylation. The surprising inhibition of the methylation reaction by poly(dA).poly(dT), which is itself not methylated by the enzyme, suggests the possible involvement of adjacent A and T residues in influencing the choice of sites of methylation by the enzyme.

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