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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1984 Apr;81(8):2275-9.

Variations in DNA methylation during mouse cell differentiation in vivo and in vitro.


Mouse teratocarcinoma cells induced to differentiate in vitro undergo a massive (30%) demethylation of DNA. A similar undermethylation is also observed in the mouse extraembryonic membranes, the yolk sac and placenta. In both cases, the decrease in methyl moieties occurs at a large number of CpG sites spread out over the entire genome, as indicated by a restriction enzyme analysis of several mouse genes including dhfr, beta-major globin, and the H-2K gene family. In contrast to this, the embryo itself appears to undergo methylation de novo during early stages of embryogenesis. Thus, as opposed to somatic cells, events during early mouse development are associated with wide variations in the level of DNA methylation. Although these changes in DNA methylation seem to be an integral part of the differentiation process, its relation to specific gene expression is still unclear.

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