DNA methylation plays an essential role in genomic imprinting observed in eutherian mammals and marsupials. In mouse, one of the two de novo DNA methyltransferases, Dnmt3a, and a related protein, Dnmt3L have been shown to be essential for imprint establishment in the parental germline. To gain insights into the evolution of imprinting mechanisms, we have identified and characterized the DNMT3 family genes in other vertebrate species. We cloned cDNAs for chicken DNMT3A and DNMT3B, whose putative protein products shared 81.5% and 48.6% amino acid sequence identity with their mouse orthologues. Using computer-assisted database searches, we also identified DNMT3A and DNMT3B orthologues in fish (fugu and zebrafish) and marsupials (opossum). We found that, while opossums had an orthologue for DNMT3L, chickens and fish did not have this gene. Thus, unlike the other DNMT3 members, DNMT3L was restricted to the species in which imprinting occurs. The acquisition of DNMT3L by a common ancestor of eutherians and marsupials might have been closely related to the evolution of imprinting.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology