DNA methylation (5-methylcytosine, 5mC) is a major form of DNA modification in the mammalian genome that plays critical roles in chromatin structure and gene expression. In general, DNA methylation is stably maintained in somatic tissues. However, DNA methylation patterns and levels show dynamic changes during development. Specifically, the genome undergoes two waves of global demethylation and remethylation for the purpose of producing the next generation. The first wave occurs in the germline, initiated with the erasure of global methylation in primordial germ cells (PGCs) and completed with the establishment of sex-specific methylation patterns during later stages of germ cell development. The second wave occurs after fertilization, including the erasure of most methylation marks inherited from the gametes and the subsequent establishment of the embryonic methylation pattern. The two waves of DNA methylation reprogramming involve both distinct and shared mechanisms. In this review article, we provide an overview of the key reprogramming events, focusing on the important players in these processes, including DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) and ten-eleven translocation (TET) family of 5mC dioxygenases.
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