We have cloned a series of overlapping cDNA clones encoding a 5194 bp transcript for human DNA methyltransferase (DNA MTase). This sequence potentially codes for a protein of 1495 amino acids with a predicted molecular weight of 169 kDa. The human DNA MTase cDNA has eighty percent homology at the nucleotide level, and the predicted protein has seventy-four percent identity at the amino acid level, to the DNA MTase cDNA cloned from mouse cells. Like the murine DNA MTase, the amino terminal two-thirds of the human protein contains a cysteine-rich region suggestive of a metal-binding domain. The carboxy terminal one-third of the protein shows considerable similarity to prokaryotic (cytosine-5)-methyltransferases. The arrangement of multiple motifs conserved in the prokaryotic genes is preserved in the human DNA MTase, including the relative position of a proline cysteine dipeptide thought to be an essential catalytic site in all (cytosine-5)-methyltransferases. A single 5.2 kb transcript was detected in all human tissues tested, with the highest levels of expression observed in RNA from placenta, brain, heart and lung. DNA MTase cDNA clones were used to screen a chromosome 19 genomic cosmid library. The DNA MTase-positive cosmids which are estimated to span a genomic distance of 93 kb have been localized to 19p13.2-p13.3 by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Isolation of the cDNA for human DNA MTase will allow further study of the regulation of DNA MTase expression, and of the role of this enzyme in establishing DNA methylation patterns in both normal and neoplastic cells.
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