Conserved DNA Methyltransferases: A Window into Fundamental Mechanisms of Epigenetic Regulation in Bacteria

Pedro H. Oliveira, Gang Fang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


An increasing number of studies have reported that bacterial DNA methylation has important functions beyond the roles in restriction-modification systems, including the ability of affecting clinically relevant phenotypes such as virulence, host colonization, sporulation, biofilm formation, among others. Although insightful, such studies have a largely ad hoc nature and would benefit from a systematic strategy enabling a joint functional characterization of bacterial methylomes by the microbiology community. In this opinion article, we propose that highly conserved DNA methyltransferases (MTases) represent a unique opportunity for bacterial epigenomic studies. These MTases are rather common in bacteria, span various taxonomic scales, and are present in multiple human pathogens. Apart from well-characterized core DNA MTases, like those from Vibrio cholerae, Salmonella enterica, Clostridioides difficile, or Streptococcus pyogenes, multiple highly conserved DNA MTases are also found in numerous human pathogens, including those belonging to the genera Burkholderia and Acinetobacter. We discuss why and how these MTases can be prioritized to enable a community-wide, integrative approach for functional epigenomic studies. Ultimately, we discuss how some highly conserved DNA MTases may emerge as promising targets for the development of novel epigenetic inhibitors for biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-40
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • antimicrobials
  • methylome
  • persistent/core genes
  • restriction-modification systems
  • virulence


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