Recent studies showed that Ten-eleven translocation (Tet) family dioxygenases can oxidize 5-methyl-2'-deoxycytidine (5-mdC) in DNA to yield the 5-hydroxymethyl, 5-formyl and 5-carboxyl derivatives of 2'-deoxycytidine (5-HmdC, 5-FodC and 5-CadC). 5-HmdC in DNA may be enzymatically deaminated to yield 5-hydroxymethyl-2'-deoxyuridine (5-HmdU). After their formation at CpG dinucleotide sites, these oxidized pyrimidine nucleosides, particularly 5-FodC, 5-CadC, and 5-HmdU, may be cleaved from DNA by thymine DNA glycosylase, and subsequent action of base-excision repair machinery restores unmethylated cytosine. These processes are proposed to be important in active DNA cytosine demethylation in mammals. Here we used a reversed-phase HPLC coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS/MS) method, along with the use of stable isotope-labeled standards, for accurate measurements of 5-HmdC, 5-FodC, 5-CadC and 5-HmdU in genomic DNA of cultured human cells and multiple mammalian tissues. We found that overexpression of the catalytic domain of human Tet1 led to marked increases in the levels of 5-HmdC, 5-FodC and 5-CadC, but only a modest increase in 5-HmdU, in genomic DNA of HEK293T cells. Moreover, 5-HmdC is present at a level that is approximately 2-3 and 3-4 orders of magnitude greater than 5-FodC and 5-CadC, respectively, and 35-400 times greater than 5-HmdU in the mouse brain and skin, and human brain. The robust analytical method built a solid foundation for dissecting the molecular mechanisms of active cytosine demethylation, for measuring these 5-mdC derivatives and assessing their involvement in epigenetic regulation in other organisms and for examining whether these 5-mdC derivatives can be used as biomarkers for human diseases.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
National Institutes of Health (NIH) [DK082779 to Y.W., NS047344 and ES021957 to H.S. and AR043369 to D.E.F.]; Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund postdoctoral fellowship (to Y.S and Y.Z). Funding for open access charge: NIH [DK082779].