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      Mammalian DNA methyltransferases: new discoveries and open questions

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      Biochemical Society Transactions

      Portland Press Ltd.

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          Abstract

          <p class="first" id="P1">As part of the epigenetic network, DNA methylation is a major regulator of chromatin structure and function. In mammals, it mainly occurs at palindromic CpG sites, but asymmetric methylation at non-CpG sites is also observed. Three enzymes are involved in the generation and maintenance of DNA methylation patterns. DNMT1 has high preference for hemimethylated CpG sites, and DNMT3A and DNMT3B equally methylate unmethylated and hemimethylated DNA, and also introduce non-CpG methylation. Here, we review recent observations and novel insights into the structure and function of mammalian DNMTs (DNA methyltransferases), including new structures of DNMT1 and DNMT3A, data on their mechanism, regulation by post-translational modifications and on the function of DNMTs in cells. In addition, we present news findings regarding the allosteric regulation and targeting of DNMTs by chromatin modifications and chromatin proteins. In combination, the recent publications summarized here impressively illustrate the intensity of ongoing research in this field. They provide a deeper understanding of key mechanistic properties of DNMTs, but they also document still unsolved issues, which need to be addressed in future research. </p>

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          Understanding the language of Lys36 methylation at histone H3.

          Histone side chains are post-translationally modified at multiple sites, including at Lys36 on histone H3 (H3K36). Several enzymes from yeast and humans, including the methyltransferases SET domain-containing 2 (Set2) and nuclear receptor SET domain-containing 1 (NSD1), respectively, alter the methylation status of H3K36, and significant progress has been made in understanding how they affect chromatin structure and function. Although H3K36 methylation is most commonly associated with the transcription of active euchromatin, it has also been implicated in diverse processes, including alternative splicing, dosage compensation and transcriptional repression, as well as DNA repair and recombination. Disrupted placement of methylated H3K36 within the chromatin landscape can lead to a range of human diseases, underscoring the importance of this modification.
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            Tissue Distribution of 5-Hydroxymethylcytosine and Search for Active Demethylation Intermediates

            5–Hydroxymethylcytosine (hmC) was recently detected as the sixth base in mammalian tissue at so far controversial levels. The function of the modified base is currently unknown, but it is certain that the base is generated from 5-methylcytosine (mC). This fuels the hypothesis that it represents an intermediate of an active demethylation process, which could involve further oxidation of the hydroxymethyl group to a formyl or carboxyl group followed by either deformylation or decarboxylation. Here, we use an ultra-sensitive and accurate isotope based LC-MS method to precisely determine the levels of hmC in various mouse tissues and we searched for 5–formylcytosine (fC), 5-carboxylcytosine (caC), and 5–hydroxymethyluracil (hmU) as putative active demethylation intermediates. Our data suggest that an active oxidative mC demethylation pathway is unlikely to occur. Additionally, we show using HPLC-MS analysis and immunohistochemistry that hmC is present in all tissues and cell types with highest concentrations in neuronal cells of the CNS.
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              Genomic profiling of DNA methyltransferases reveals a role for DNMT3B in genic methylation.

              DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification associated with transcriptional repression of promoters and is essential for mammalian development. Establishment of DNA methylation is mediated by the de novo DNA methyltransferases DNMT3A and DNMT3B, whereas DNMT1 ensures maintenance of methylation through replication. Absence of these enzymes is lethal, and somatic mutations in these genes have been associated with several human diseases. How genomic DNA methylation patterns are regulated remains poorly understood, as the mechanisms that guide recruitment and activity of DNMTs in vivo are largely unknown. To gain insights into this matter we determined genomic binding and site-specific activity of the mammalian de novo DNA methyltransferases DNMT3A and DNMT3B. We show that both enzymes localize to methylated, CpG-dense regions in mouse stem cells, yet are excluded from active promoters and enhancers. By specifically measuring sites of de novo methylation, we observe that enzymatic activity reflects binding. De novo methylation increases with CpG density, yet is excluded from nucleosomes. Notably, we observed selective binding of DNMT3B to the bodies of transcribed genes, which leads to their preferential methylation. This targeting to transcribed sequences requires SETD2-mediated methylation of lysine 36 on histone H3 and a functional PWWP domain of DNMT3B. Together these findings reveal how sequence and chromatin cues guide de novo methyltransferase activity to ensure methylome integrity.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Biochemical Society Transactions
                Biochm. Soc. Trans.
                Portland Press Ltd.
                0300-5127
                1470-8752
                October 18 2018
                October 19 2018
                October 19 2018
                August 28 2018
                : 46
                : 5
                : 1191-1202
                Article
                10.1042/BST20170574
                6581191
                30154093
                065c8dbf-9f30-4736-8572-26e2699066d8
                © 2018

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