Conservation of DNA methylation in dipteran insects


Dr Frank Lyko, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Im Neuenheimer Feld 580, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany. Tel.: +49 6221 423800; fax: +49 6221 423802; e-mail:


DNA methylation is a central mechanism of epigenetic regulation. Whereas vertebrate DNA methylation requires at least four different DNA methyltransferases, Drosophila melanogaster only utilizes a single, Dnmt2-like enzyme. This profound difference has raised the question of the evolutionary significance of the Drosophila methylation system. We have now identified Dnmt2-like open reading frames in the genome sequences of Drosophila pseudoobscura and Anopheles gambiae. These genes represent the only candidate DNA methyltransferases in their respective genomes. Consistent with a catalytic activity of Dnmt2 proteins, we could also demonstrate low but significant levels of DNA methylation in genomic DNA from these species. Lastly, we were also able to detect highly conserved Dnmt2-like open reading frames and concomitant DNA methylation in several additional Drosophila species, which suggests that Dnmt2-mediated DNA methylation has been conserved over a considerable evolutionary distance.