Genome-wide DNA hypomethylation occurs in many human cancers, but whether this epigenetic change is a cause or consequence of tumorigenesis has been unclear. To explore this phenomenon, we generated mice carrying a hypomorphic DNA methyltransferase 1 (Dnmt1) allele, which reduces Dnmt1 expression to 10% of wild-type levels and results in substantial genome-wide hypomethylation in all tissues. The mutant mice were runted at birth, and at 4 to 8 months of age they developed aggressive T cell lymphomas that displayed a high frequency of chromosome 15 trisomy. These results indicate that DNA hypomethylation plays a causal role in tumor formation, possibly by promoting chromosomal instability.
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