Cell Biophysics

, Volume 15, Issue 1–2, pp 79–86 | Cite as

The DNA methylation system in proliferating and differentiated cells

  • Gerd P. Pfeifer
  • Sabine D. Steigerwald
  • Stefan Grünwald


The human melanoma cell line M21 can be induced to differentiate into oligodendrocyte-like cells with concommitant cessation of cell division. Cytosine-arabinoside, 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine, hydroxyurea, aphidicolin, and phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate were found to be potent differentiation inducers. We have analyzed the changes of methylation of DNA cytosines that occur after treatment of M21 cells with these compounds. Although DNA methylation levels remain unchanged in the presence of aphidicolin and phorbol ester, 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine-induced differentiation of these cells results in a 40% DNA demethylation. On the other hand, hydroxyurea and cytosinearabinoside treatment causes DNA hypermethylation, which, in the case of the cytidine analogue is of only transient nature. These results show that the differentiation of human melanoma cells can be accompanied by variable changes of DNA methylation levels.

In another set of experiments, the DNA methylation levels have been analyzed during cytosine-arabinoside-induced differentiation of human K562 erythroleukemia cells. In this system, a transient DNA demethylation precedes the establishment of the differentiated phenotype. Since DNA replication is inhibited, this demethylation cannot be explained by inhibition of the maintenance activity of DNA methyltransferase, but is more likely caused by an active excision of 5-methylcytosine from DNA.

Index Entries

DNA methylation demethylation 5-methylcytosine differentiation melanoma cells K562 cells 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerd P. Pfeifer
    • 1
  • Sabine D. Steigerwald
    • 1
  • Stefan Grünwald
    • 2
  1. 1.Zentrum der Biologischen ChemieUniversität FrankfurtFrankfurt a.M. 70FRG
  2. 2.Zentrum der Inneren MedizinUniversität FrankfurtFrankfurt a.M. 70FRG

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