DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification in which a methyl group is added usually to the fifth carbon position of a cytosine residue. Dysregulation of this process is an important molecular event which has been shown to be associated with neoplastic transformation and tumour progression in humans and mice. Features of methylation dysregulation in many different types of neoplasms include general genomic hypomethylation, focal hypermethylation, and altered expression of genes which encode a series of DNA (cytosine-5) methyltransferases. Interestingly, many types of neoplasia that are recognised in humans also develop spontaneously in the dog. By comparing the restriction patterns of MspI and HpaII, this study demonstrates that as in human, genomic hypomethylation is a feature of neoplastic cells in the majority of canine lymphoma cases and approximately one-third of canine leukemia cases confirming that dysregulation of the DNA methylating machinery is implicated in malignant transformation of lymphoid cells in some dogs. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.