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Cell DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2019.12.012

Evolutionary Persistence of DNA Methylation for Millions of Years after Ancient Loss of a De Novo Methyltransferase.

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsCatania, S, Dumesic, PA, Pimentel, H, Nasif, A, Stoddard, CI, Burke, JE, Diedrich, JK, Cooke, S, Shea, T, Gienger, E, Lintner, R, Yates, JR, Hajkova, P, Narlikar, GJ, Cuomo, CA, Pritchard, JK, Madhani, HD
Date Published2020 Jan 23

Cytosine methylation of DNA is a widespread modification of DNA that plays numerous critical roles. In the yeast Cryptococcus neoformans, CG methylation occurs in transposon-rich repeats and requires the DNA methyltransferase Dnmt5. We show that Dnmt5 displays exquisite maintenance-type specificity in vitro and in vivo and utilizes similar in vivo cofactors as the metazoan maintenance methylase Dnmt1. Remarkably, phylogenetic and functional analysis revealed that the ancestral species lost the gene for a de novo methylase, DnmtX, between 50-150 mya. We examined how methylation has persisted since the ancient loss of DnmtX. Experimental and comparative studies reveal efficient replication of methylation patterns in C. neoformans, rare stochastic methylation loss and gain events, and the action of natural selection. We propose that an epigenome has been propagated for >50 million years through a process analogous to Darwinian evolution of the genome.


Alternate JournalCell
PubMed ID31955845
Grant ListMC_U120092689 / MRC_ / Medical Research Council / United Kingdom