DNA methylation is dynamically remodelled during the mammalian life cycle through distinct phases of reprogramming and de novo methylation. These events enable the acquisition of cellular potential followed by the maintenance of lineage-restricted cell identity, respectively, a process that defines the life cycle through successive generations. DNA methylation contributes to the epigenetic regulation of many key developmental processes including genomic imprinting, X-inactivation, genome stability and gene regulation. Emerging sequencing technologies have led to recent insights into the dynamic distribution of DNA methylation during development and the role of this epigenetic mark within distinct genomic contexts, such as at promoters, exons or imprinted control regions. Additionally, there is a better understanding of the mechanistic basis of DNA demethylation during epigenetic reprogramming in primordial germ cells and during pre-implantation development. Here, we discuss our current understanding of the developmental roles and dynamics of this key epigenetic system.
One contribution of 15 to a Theme Issue ‘Mammalian epigenetics in biology and medicine’.
© 2012 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.