In general, DNA methylation acts in concert with other epigenetic processes, including histone modifications, chromatin remodeling and microRNAs, to shape the overall chromatin structure of the nucleus and potentially modify its functional state. Aberrant DNA methylation events can occur in a number of human diseases but we are only just beginning to appreciate the scope and magnitude of this process in human health. As one example, in contrast to normal cells, the cancer methylome is characterized by reciprocal hypermethylation of specific regulatory regions of genes along with an overall decrease in the quantity of 5-methylcytosine throughout the remainder of the genome. Currently, near genome-wide technologies are available and have been utilized to examine the extent of DNA methylation in discovery-based studies involving several physiological and disease states. Although early in the process, DNA methylation is being explored as a biomarker to be used in clinical practice for early detection of disease, tumor classification and for predicting disease outcome or recurrence. This perspective focuses on the current and future states of the use of DNA methylation biomarkers in disease diagnosis, prognosis and classification, with a particular emphasis on cancer.
- DNA methylation
- Human cancer
- Methylation detection methods
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Molecular Medicine
- Molecular Biology