Received June 14, 2007
The pioneering data on base composition and pyrimidine sequences in DNA of pro- and eukaryotes are considered, and their significance for the origin of genosystematics is discussed. The modern views on specificity and functional role of enzymatic DNA methylation in eukaryotes are described. DNA methylation controls all genetic functions and is a mechanism of cellular differentiation and gene silencing. A model of regulation of DNA replication by methylation is suggested. Adenine DNA methylation in higher eukaryotes (higher plants) was first observed, and it was established that one and the same gene can be methylated at both cytosine and adenine moieties. Thus, there are at least two different and seemingly interdependent DNA methylation systems present in eukaryotic cells. The first eukaryotic adenine DNA-methyltransferase is isolated from wheat seedlings and described: the enzyme methylates DNA with formation of N6-methyladenine in the sequence TGATCA → TGm6ATCA. It is found that higher plants have endonucleases that are dependent on S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) and sensitive to DNA methylation status. Therefore, as in bacteria, plants seem to have a restriction-modification (R-M) system. A system of conjugated up- and down-regulation of SAM-dependent endonucleases by SAM modulations is found in plants. Revelation of an essential role of DNA methylation in regulation of genetic processes is a fundament of materialization of epigenetics and epigenomics.
KEY WORDS: genosystematics, DNA base composition, DNA-methylation, N6-methyladenine, 5-methylcytosine, cancer, replication, aging, evolution, plant endonucleases, epigenetics