In mammals, the resetting of DNA methylation patterns in early embryos and germ cells is crucial for development. De novo type DNA methyltransferases Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b are responsible for creating DNA methylation patterns during embryogenesis and in germ cells. Although their in vitro DNA methylation properties are similar, Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b methylate different genomic DNA regions in vivo. In the present study, we have examined the DNA methylation activity of Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b towards nucleo-somes reconstituted from recombinant histones and DNAs, and compared it to that of the corresponding naked DNAs. Dnmt3a showed higher DNA methylation activity than Dnmt3b towards naked DNA and the naked part of nucleosomal. DNA. On the other hand, Dnmt3a scarcely methylated the DNA within the nucleosome core region, while Dnmt3b significantly did, although the activity was low. We propose that the preferential DNA methylation activity of Dnmt3a towards the naked part of nucleosomal DNA and the significant methylation activity of Dnmt3b towards the nucleosome core region contribute to their distinct methylation of genomic DNA in vivo.