Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS

, Volume 61, Issue 19–20, pp 2571–2587 | Cite as

Biochemistry and biology of mammalian DNA methyltransferases

  • A. Hermann
  • H. Gowher
  • A. JeltschEmail author


DNA methylation is a stable but not irreversible epigenetic signal that silences gene expression. It has a variety of important functions in mammals, including control of gene expression, cellular differentiation and development, preservation of chromosomal integrity, parental imprinting and X-chromosome inactivation. In addition, it has been implicated in brain function and the development of the immune system. Somatic alterations in genomic methylation patterns contribute to the etiology of human cancers and ageing. It is tightly interwoven with the modification of histone tails and other epigenetic signals. Here we review our current understanding of the molecular enzymology of the mammalian DNA methyltransferases Dnmt1, Dnmt3a, Dnmt3b and Dnmt2 and the roles of the enzymes in the above-mentioned biological processes.

Key words.

DNA methylation DNA methyltransferase Dnmt1 Dnmt3a Dnmt3b epigenetics regulation of gene expression 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für BiochemieFB 8, Justus-Liebig-UniversitätGiessenGermany
  2. 2.School of Engineering and ScienceInternational University BremenBremenGermany

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