Since the cloning and discovery of DNA methyltransferases (DNMT), there has been a growing interest in DNA methylation, its role as an epigenetic modification, how it is established and removed, along with the implications in development and disease. In recent years, it has become evident that dynamic DNA methylation accompanies the circadian clock and is found at clock genes in Neurospora, mice and cancer cells. The relationship among the circadian clock, cancer and DNA methylation at clock genes suggests a correlative indication that improper DNA methylation may influence clock gene expression, contributing to the etiology of cancer. The molecular mechanism underlying DNA methylation at clock loci is best studied in the filamentous fungi, Neurospora crassa, and recent data indicate a mechanism analogous to the RNA-dependent DNA methylation (RdDM) or RNAi-mediated facultative heterochromatin. Although it is still unclear, DNA methylation at clock genes may function as a terminal modification that serves to prevent the regulated removal of histone modifications. In this capacity, aberrant DNA methylation may serve as a readout of misregulated clock genes and not as the causative agent. This review explores the implications of DNA methylation at clock loci and describes what is currently known regarding the molecular mechanism underlying DNA methylation at circadian clock genes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Immunology and Microbiology
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
- Circadian clock
- DNA methylation
- Facultative heterochromatin