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Verónica García-Carpizo, Lidia Ruiz-Llorente, Mario Fraga, and Ana Aranda

DNA methylation is the best studied epigenetic factor, playing a key role in producing stable changes in gene expression, thus defining cell identity and function and adapting cells to environmental changes. DNA methylation has also been recently shown to mediate cell responses to physiological endocrine signals. Moreover, alterations of the normal DNA methylation pattern can also contribute to the development of endocrine and metabolic diseases and can explain the relationship between an individual's genetic background, the environment, and disease. It should be remarked that although DNA methylation and demethylation are active processes, epigenetic changes produced during development can impact adult processes, establishing the idea that endocrine function can be persistently affected by events occurring in early life. Given the complexity of the endocrine system, both genetic and epigenetic processes, including DNA methylation, must be involved in its proper development and functioning. In this study, we summarize the recent knowledge in the field of DNA methylation and endocrinology. Given that DNA methylation can be involved in a number of endocrine and metabolic disorders, understanding and manipulating this modification opens a new door for preventing and treating endocrine diseases.