The DNTM3A and DNMT3B de novo DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) are responsible for setting genomic DNA methylation patterns, a key layer of epigenetic information. Here, using an in vivo episomal methylation assay and extensive bisulfite methylation sequencing, we show that human DNMT3A and DNMT3B possess significant and distinct flanking sequence preferences for target CpG sites. Selection for high or low efficiency sites is mediated by the base composition at the 22 and +2 positions flanking the CpG site for DNMT3A, and at the 21 and +1 positions for DNMT3B. This intrinsic preference reproducibly leads to the formation of specific de novo methylation patterns characterized by up to 34-fold variations in the efficiency of DNA methylation at individual sites. Furthermore, analysis of the distribution of signature methylation hotspot and coldspot motifs suggests that DNMT flanking sequence preference has contributed to shaping the composition of CpG islands in the human genome. Our results also show that the DNMT3L stimulatory factor modulates the formation of de novo methylation patterns in two ways. First, DNMT3L selectively focuses the DNA methylation machinery on properly chromatinized DNA templates. Second, DNMT3L attenuates the impact of the intrinsic DNMT flanking sequence preference by providing a much greater boost to the methylation of poorly methylated sites, thus promoting the formation of broader and more uniform methylation patterns. This study offers insights into the manner by which DNA methylation patterns are deposited and reveals a new level of interplay between members of the de novo DNMT family.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research