Principles of DNA methylation and their implications for biology and medicine

Yuval Dor, Howard Cedar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


DNA methylation represents an annotation system for marking the genetic text, thus providing instruction as to how and when to read the information and control transcription. Unlike sequence information, which is inherited, methylation patterns are established in a programmed process that continues throughout development, thus setting up stable gene expression profiles. This DNA methylation paradigm is a key player in medicine. Some changes in methylation closely correlate with age providing a marker for biological ageing, and these same sites could also play a part in cancer. The genome continues to undergo programmed variation in methylation after birth in response to environmental inputs, serving as a memory device that could affect ageing and predisposition to various metabolic, autoimmune, and neurological diseases. Taking advantage of tissue-specific differences, methylation can be used to detect cell death and thereby monitor many common diseases with a simple cell-free circulating-DNA blood test.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)777-786
Number of pages10
JournalThe Lancet
Issue number10149
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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