Hendrich, B. and Tweedie, S. (2003) The methyl-CpG binding domain and the evolving role of DNA methylation in animals. Trends in genetics : TIG. 19(5):269-277.
DNA methylation occurs in bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, however its role varies widely among different organisms. Even within animal genomes, methylation patterns vary substantially from undetectable in nematodes, to global methylation in vertebrate genomes. The number and variety of proteins containing methyl-CpG binding domains (MBDs) that are encoded in animal genomes also varies, with a general correlation between the extent of genomic methylation and the number of MBD proteins. We describe here the evolution of the MBD proteins and argue that the vertebrate MBD complement evolved to exploit the benefits and protect against the dangers of a globally methylated genome.