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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014, Article ID 784706, 12 pages
Review Article

Dynamic Alu Methylation during Normal Development, Aging, and Tumorigenesis

1Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
2Epigenomics and Computational Biology Lab, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24060, USA
3Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24060, USA

Received 10 April 2014; Accepted 16 August 2014; Published 27 August 2014

Academic Editor: Yeon-Su Lee

Copyright © 2014 Yanting Luo et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


DNA methylation primarily occurs on CpG dinucleotides and plays an important role in transcriptional regulations during tissue development and cell differentiation. Over 25% of CpG dinucleotides in the human genome reside within Alu elements, the most abundant human repeats. The methylation of Alu elements is an important mechanism to suppress Alu transcription and subsequent retrotransposition. Decades of studies revealed that Alu methylation is highly dynamic during early development and aging. Recently, many environmental factors were shown to have a great impact on Alu methylation. In addition, aberrant Alu methylation has been documented to be an early event in many tumors and Alu methylation levels have been associated with tumor aggressiveness. The assessment of the Alu methylation has become an important approach for early diagnosis and/or prognosis of cancer. This review focuses on the dynamic Alu methylation during development, aging, and tumor genesis. The cause and consequence of Alu methylation changes will be discussed.