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We wished to overview recent data on a subset of epigenetic changes elicited by intracellular bacteria in human cells. Reprogramming the gene expression pattern of various host cells may facilitate bacterial growth, survival, and spread.DNA-(cytosine C5)-methyltransferases of Mycoplasma hyorhinis targeting cytosine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) dinucleotides and a Mycobacterium tuberculosis methyltransferase targeting non-CpG sites methylated the host cell DNA and altered the pattern of gene expression. Gene silencing by CpG methylation and histone deacetylation, mediated by cellular enzymes, also occurred in M. tuberculosis-infected macrophages. M. tuberculosis elicited cell type-specific epigenetic changes: it caused increased DNA methylation in macrophages, but induced demethylation, deposition of euchromatic histone marks and activation of immune-related genes in dendritic cells. A secreted transposase of Acinetobacter baumannii silenced a cellular gene, whereas Mycobacterium leprae altered the epigenotype, phenotype, and fate of infected Schwann cells. The ‘keystone pathogen’ oral bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis induced local DNA methylation and increased the level of histone acetylation in host cells. These epigenetic changes at the biofilm–gingiva interface may contribute to the development of periodontitis.Epigenetic regulators produced by intracellular bacteria alter the epigenotype and gene expression pattern of host cells and play an important role in pathogenesis.