Ageing, a leading cause of the decline/deficits in human learning, memory, and cognitive abilities, is a major risk factor for age-associated neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Emerging evidence suggests that epigenetics, an inheritable but reversible biochemical process, plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of age-related neurological disorders. DNA methylation, the best-known epigenetic mark, has attracted most attention in this regard. DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) are key enzymes in mediating the DNA methylation process, by which a methyl group is transferred, faithfully or anew, to genomic DNA sequences. Biologically, DNMTs are important for gene imprinting. Accumulating evidence suggests that DNMTs not only play critical roles, including gene imprinting and transcription regulation, in early development stages of the central nervous system (CNS), but also are indispensable in adult learning, memory, and cognition. Therefore, the impact of DNMTs and DNA methylation on age-associated cognitive functions and neurodegenerative diseases has emerged as a pivotal topic in the field. In this review, the effects of each DNMT on CNS development and healthy and pathological ageing are discussed.
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