Chen CC, Wang KY, Shen CK
For cytosine (C) demethylation of vertebrate DNA, it is known that the Tet proteins could convert 5-mC to 5-hydroxymethyl C (5-hmC). However, DNA dehydroxymethylase(s), or enzymes able to directly convert 5-hmC to C, have been elusive. We present in vitro evidence that the mammalian de novo DNA methyltransferases Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b, but not the maintenance enzyme Dnmt1, are also redox-dependent DNA dehydroxymethylases. Significantly, intactness of the C methylation catalytic sites of these de novo enzymes is also required for their 5-hmC dehydroxymethylation activity. That Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b function bi-directionally both as DNA methyltransferases and dehydroxymethylases raises intriguing and new questions regarding the structural and functional aspects of these enzymes and their regulatory roles in the dynamic modifications of the vertebrate genomes during development, carcinogenesis, and gene regulation.