DNA methylation controls several cellular processes, from early development to old age, including biological responses to endogenous or exogenous stimuli contributing to disease transition. As a result, minimal DNA methylation changes during developmental stages drive severe phenotypes, as observed in germ-line imprinting disorders, while genome-wide alterations occurring in somatic cells are linked to cancer onset and progression. By summarizing the molecular events governing DNA methylation, we focus on the methods that have facilitated mapping and understanding of this epigenetic mark in healthy conditions and diseases. Overall, we review the bright (health-related) and dark (disease-related) side of DNA methylation changes, outlining how bulk and single-cell genomic analyses are moving toward the identification of new molecular targets and driving the development of more specific and less toxic demethylating agents.
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