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Losing DNA methylation at repetitive elements and breaking bad
Epigenetics & Chromatin  (IF4.954),  Pub Date : 2021-06-03, DOI: 10.1186/s13072-021-00400-z
Xena Giada Pappalardo, Viviana Barra

DNA methylation is an epigenetic chromatin mark that allows heterochromatin formation and gene silencing. It has a fundamental role in preserving genome stability (including chromosome stability) by controlling both gene expression and chromatin structure. Therefore, the onset of an incorrect pattern of DNA methylation is potentially dangerous for the cells. This is particularly important with respect to repetitive elements, which constitute the third of the human genome. Repetitive sequences are involved in several cell processes, however, due to their intrinsic nature, they can be a source of genome instability. Thus, most repetitive elements are usually methylated to maintain a heterochromatic, repressed state. Notably, there is increasing evidence showing that repetitive elements (satellites, long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs), Alus) are frequently hypomethylated in various of human pathologies, from cancer to psychiatric disorders. Repetitive sequences’ hypomethylation correlates with chromatin relaxation and unscheduled transcription. If these alterations are directly involved in human diseases aetiology and how, is still under investigation. Hypomethylation of different families of repetitive sequences is recurrent in many different human diseases, suggesting that the methylation status of these elements can be involved in preservation of human health. This provides a promising point of view towards the research of therapeutic strategies focused on specifically tuning DNA methylation of DNA repeats.