The methylation pathways in the body is critical to good health. There are various functions of methylation within the body:
- detoxification of carcinogens and other toxins
- repair damage DNA
- the formation of new cells
- the manufacture of certain hormones
One of the indicators that the body is not methylating properly is a high homocysteine serum level.
Methylation is the transfer of a methyl group, which is what happened with carbon attached to three atoms of hydrogen, from one molecule to another.
Methylation is composed of two components:
1. Methyl donors-methyl donors are compounds that supply the methyl groups needed for methylation.
2. Methylating factors-methylating factors are nutrients that assist with the methylation process by providing enzymes that detach the methyl groups from the methyl donors and reattach them to other molecules.
Methyl donors consists of the following:
- Trimethylglycine (TMG)
- Dimethylglycine (DMG)
- S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe)
Methylating factors consist of the following:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
When the body is deficient in both methyl donors or methylating factors detoxification and repair functions of the body are compromised.
Methylation is the enzymatically-catalyzed process of adding a methyl group to proteins, DNA and RNA. This process is involved in RNA metabolism and the regulation of gene expression and protein function. While it does not change the sequence of the genome, methylation determines which genes are expressed and are responsible for changes in gene expression.
In general, methylation is a normal process that occurs in humans. DNA methylation has been found to play an important role in embryonic development, genomic imprinting, X-chromosome inactivation in females and cases where individuals possess two X-chromosomes, and chromosome stability.
Studies have found that embryos lacking the enzyme that catalyzes the transfer of a methyl group to DNA die during the differentiation stage. The methylation of histones, proteins involved in the packaging and ordering of DNA into structural units, regulates processes such as gene transcription and DNA repair.
Given the importance of methylation, errors in the process can result in devastating genetic disorders and human diseases. For instance, a loss of methylation results in the genomic instability present in the tumor cells of an individual with cancer.
On the other hand, if methylation is present in cells that are normally unmethylated and cause the process of transcribing DNA into RNA to be silenced, tumors can develop that in turn can lead to cancer (i.e., colon cancer).
Aside from cancer, errors in DNA methylation are also responsible for:
- Immunodeficiency-centromeric instability-facial anomalies syndrome (ICF syndrome)
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Angelman’s syndrome
- Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
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