A Susceptibility Locus on Chromosome 13 Profoundly Impacts the Stability of Genomic Imprinting in Mouse Pluripotent Stem Cells
Cultured pluripotent cells accumulate detrimental chromatin alterations, including DNA methylation changes at imprinted genes known as loss of imprinting (LOI). Although the occurrence of LOI is considered a stochastic phenomenon, here we document a genetic determinant that segregates mouse pluripotent cells into stable and unstable cell lines. Unstable lines exhibit hypermethylation at Dlk1-Dio3 and other imprinted loci, in addition to impaired developmental potential. Stimulation of demethylases by ascorbic acid prevents LOI and loss of developmental potential. Susceptibility to LOI greatly differs between commonly used mouse strains, which we use to map a causal region on chromosome 13 with quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis. Our observations identify a strong genetic determinant of locus-specific chromatin abnormalities in pluripotent cells and provide a non-invasive way to suppress them. This highlights the importance of considering genetics in conjunction with culture conditions for assuring the quality of pluripotent cells for biomedical applications.
TET methylcytosine oxidases: new insights from a decade of research
In mammals, DNA methyltransferases transfer a methyl group from S-adenosylmethionine to the 5 position of cytosine in DNA. The product of this reaction, 5-methylcytosine (5mC), has many roles, particularly in suppressing transposable and repeat elements in DNA. Moreover, in many cellular systems, cell lineage specification is accompanied by DNA demethylation at the promoters of genes expressed at high levels in the differentiated cells. However, since direct cleavage of the C-C bond connecting the methyl group to the 5 position of cytosine is thermodynamically disfavoured, the question of whether DNA methylation was reversible remained unclear for many decades. This puzzle was solved by our discovery of the TET (Ten- Eleven Translocation) family of 5-methylcytosine oxidases, which use reduced iron, molecular oxygen and the tricarboxylic acid cycle metabolite 2-oxoglutarate (also known as a-ketoglutarate) to oxidise the methyl group of 5mC to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) and beyond. TET-generated oxidised methylcytosines are intermediates in at least two pathways of DNA demethylation, which differ in their dependence on DNA replication. In the decade since their discovery, TET enzymes have been shown to have important roles in embryonic development, cell lineage specification, neuronal function and cancer. We review these findings and discuss their implications here.
Overlapping Requirements for Tet2 and Tet3 in Normal Development and Hematopoietic Stem Cell Emergence
The Tet family of methylcytosine dioxygenases (Tet1, Tet2, and Tet3) convert 5-methylcytosine to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine. To date, functional overlap among Tet family members has not been examined systematically in the context of embryonic development. To clarify the potential for overlap among Tet enzymes during development, we mutated the zebrafish orthologs of Tet1, Tet2, and Tet3 and examined single-, double-, and triple-mutant genotypes. Here, we identify Tet2 and Tet3 as the major 5-methylcytosine dioxygenases in the zebrafish embryo and uncover a combined requirement for Tet2 and Tet3 in hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) emergence. We demonstrate that Notch signaling in the hemogenic endothelium is regulated by Tet2/3 prior to HSC emergence and show that restoring expression of the downstream gata2b/scl/runx1 transcriptional network can rescue HSCs in tet2/3 double mutant larvae. Our results reveal essential, overlapping functions for tet genes during embryonic development and uncover a requirement for 5hmC in regulating HSC production.
Simultaneous sequencing of oxidized methylcytosines produced by TET/JBP dioxygenases in Coprinopsis cinerea
TET/JBP enzymes oxidize 5-methylpyrimidines in DNA. In mammals, the oxidized methylcytosines (oxi-mCs) function as epigenetic marks and likely intermediates in DNA demethylation. Here we present a method based on diglucosylation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) to simultaneously map 5hmC, 5-formylcytosine, and 5-carboxylcytosine at near-base-pair resolution. We have used the method to map the distribution of oxi-mC across the genome of Coprinopsis cinerea, a basidiomycete that encodes 47 TET/JBP paralogs in a previously unidentified class of DNA transposons. Like 5-methylcytosine residues from which they are derived, oxi-mC modifications are enriched at centromeres, TET/JBP transposons, and multicopy paralogous genes that are not expressed, but rarely mark genes whose expression changes between two developmental stages. Our study provides evidence for the emergence of an epigenetic regulatory system through recruitment of selfish elements in a eukaryotic lineage, and describes a method to map all three different species of oxi-mCs simultaneously.
Expanding the epigenetic landscape: novel modifications of cytosine in genomic DNA
Methylation of the base cytosine in DNA is critical for silencing endogenous retroviruses, regulating gene expression, and establishing cellular identity, and has long been regarded as an indelible epigenetic mark. The recent discovery that the ten eleven translocation (TET) proteins can oxidize 5-methylcytosine (5mC) resulting in the formation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) and other oxidized cytosine variants in the genome has triggered a paradigm shift in our understanding of how dynamic changes in DNA methylation regulate transcription and cellular differentiation, thus influencing normal development and disease.
Genome-wide mapping of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in embryonic stem cells
5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) is a modified base present at low levels in diverse cell types in mammals. 5hmC is generated by the TET family of Fe(II) and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent enzymes through oxidation of 5-methylcytosine (5mC). 5hmC and TET proteins have been implicated in stem cell biology and cancer, but information on the genome-wide distribution of 5hmC is limited. Here we describe two novel and specific approaches to profile the genomic localization of 5hmC. The first approach, termed GLIB (glucosylation, periodate oxidation, biotinylation) uses a combination of enzymatic and chemical steps to isolate DNA fragments containing as few as a single 5hmC. The second approach involves conversion of 5hmC to cytosine 5-methylenesulphonate (CMS) by treatment of genomic DNA with sodium bisulphite, followed by immunoprecipitation of CMS-containing DNA with a specific antiserum to CMS. High-throughput sequencing of 5hmC-containing DNA from mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells showed strong enrichment within exons and near transcriptional start sites. 5hmC was especially enriched at the start sites of genes whose promoters bear dual histone 3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) and histone 3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) marks. Our results indicate that 5hmC has a probable role in transcriptional regulation, and suggest a model in which 5hmC contributes to the 'poised' chromatin signature found at developmentally-regulated genes in ES cells.
Tet1 and Tet2 regulate 5-hydroxymethylcytosine production and cell lineage specification in mouse embryonic stem cells
TET family enzymes convert 5-methylcytosine (5mC) to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) in DNA. Here, we show that Tet1 and Tet2 are Oct4-regulated enzymes that together sustain 5hmC in mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and are induced concomitantly with 5hmC during reprogramming of fibroblasts to induced pluripotent stem cells. ESCs depleted of Tet1 by RNAi show diminished expression of the Nodal antagonist Lefty1 and display hyperactive Nodal signaling and skewed differentiation into the endoderm-mesoderm lineage in embryoid bodies in vitro. In Fgf4- and heparin-supplemented culture conditions, Tet1-depleted ESCs activate the trophoblast stem cell lineage determinant Elf5 and can colonize the placenta in midgestation embryo chimeras. Consistent with these findings, Tet1-depleted ESCs form aggressive hemorrhagic teratomas with increased endoderm, reduced neuroectoderm, and ectopic appearance of trophoblastic giant cells. Thus, 5hmC is an epigenetic modification associated with the pluripotent state, and Tet1 functions to regulate the lineage differentiation potential of ESCs.
Impaired hydroxylation of 5-methylcytosine in myeloid cancers with mutant TET2
TET2 is a close relative of TET1, an enzyme that converts 5-methylcytosine (5mC) to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) in DNA. The gene encoding TET2 resides at chromosome 4q24, in a region showing recurrent microdeletions and copy-neutral loss of heterozygosity (CN-LOH) in patients with diverse myeloid malignancies. Somatic TET2 mutations are frequently observed in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), MDS/MPN overlap syndromes including chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia (CMML), acute myeloid leukaemias (AML) and secondary AML (sAML). We show here that TET2 mutations associated with myeloid malignancies compromise catalytic activity. Bone marrow samples from patients with TET2 mutations displayed uniformly low levels of 5hmC in genomic DNA compared to bone marrow samples from healthy controls. Moreover, small hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated depletion of Tet2 in mouse haematopoietic precursors skewed their differentiation towards monocyte/macrophage lineages in culture. There was no significant difference in DNA methylation between bone marrow samples from patients with high 5hmC versus healthy controls, but samples from patients with low 5hmC showed hypomethylation relative to controls at the majority of differentially methylated CpG sites. Our results demonstrate that Tet2 is important for normal myelopoiesis, and suggest that disruption of TET2 enzymatic activity favours myeloid tumorigenesis. Measurement of 5hmC levels in myeloid malignancies may prove valuable as a diagnostic and prognostic tool, to tailor therapies and assess responses to anticancer drugs
The behaviour of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in bisulfite sequencing
BACKGROUND: We recently showed that enzymes of the TET family convert 5-mC to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) in DNA. 5-hmC is present at high levels in embryonic stem cells and Purkinje neurons. The methylation status of cytosines is typically assessed by reaction with sodium bisulfite followed by PCR amplification. Reaction with sodium bisulfite promotes cytosine deamination, whereas 5-methylcytosine (5-mC) reacts poorly with bisulfite and is resistant to deamination. Since 5-hmC reacts with bisulfite to yield cytosine 5-methylenesulfonate (CMS), we asked how DNA containing 5-hmC behaves in bisulfite sequencing. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We used synthetic oligonucleotides with different distributions of cytosine as templates for generation of DNAs containing C, 5-mC and 5-hmC. The resulting DNAs were subjected in parallel to bisulfite treatment, followed by exposure to conditions promoting cytosine deamination. The extent of conversion of 5-hmC to CMS was estimated to be 99.7%. Sequencing of PCR products showed that neither 5-mC nor 5-hmC undergo C-to-T transitions after bisulfite treatment, confirming that these two modified cytosine species are indistinguishable by the bisulfite technique. DNA in which CMS constituted a large fraction of all bases (28/201) was much less efficiently amplified than DNA in which those bases were 5-mC or uracil (the latter produced by cytosine deamination). Using a series of primer extension experiments, we traced the inefficient amplification of CMS-containing DNA to stalling of Taq polymerase at sites of CMS modification, especially when two CMS bases were either adjacent to one another or separated by 1-2 nucleotides. CONCLUSIONS: We have confirmed that the widely used bisulfite sequencing technique does not distinguish between 5-mC and 5-hmC. Moreover, we show that CMS, the product of bisulfite conversion of 5-hmC, tends to stall DNA polymerases during PCR, suggesting that densely hydroxymethylated regions of DNA may be underrepresented in quantitative methylation analyses
Prediction of novel families of enzymes involved in oxidative and other complex modifications of bases in nucleic acids
Modified bases in nucleic acids present a layer of information that directs biological function over and beyond the coding capacity of the conventional bases. While a large number of modified bases have been identified, many of the enzymes generating them still remain to be discovered. Recently, members of the 2-oxoglutarate- and iron(II)-dependent dioxygenase super-family, which modify diverse substrates from small molecules to biopolymers, were predicted and subsequently confirmed to catalyze oxidative modification of bases in nucleic acids. Of these, two distinct families, namely the AlkB and the kinetoplastid base J binding proteins (JBP) catalyze in situ hydroxylation of bases in nucleic acids. Using sensitive computational analysis of sequences, structures and contextual information from genomic structure and protein domain architectures, we report five distinct families of 2-oxoglutarate- and iron(II)-dependent dioxygenase that we predict to be involved in nucleic acid modifications. Among the DNA-modifying families, we show that the dioxygenase domains of the kinetoplastid base J-binding proteins belong to a larger family that includes the Tet proteins, prototyped by the human oncogene Tet1, and proteins from basidiomycete fungi, chlorophyte algae, heterolobosean amoeboflagellates and bacteriophages. We present evidence that some of these proteins are likely to be involved in oxidative modification of the 5-methyl group of cytosine leading to the formation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine. The Tet/JBP homologs from basidiomycete fungi such as Laccaria and Coprinopsis show large lineage-specific expansions and a tight linkage with genes encoding a novel and distinct family of predicted transposases, and a member of the Maelstrom-like HMG family. We propose that these fungal members are part of a mobile transposon. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of a eukaryotic transposable element that encodes its own DNA-modification enzyme with a potential regulatory role. Through a wider analysis of other poorly characterized DNA-modifying enzymes we also show that the phage Mu Mom-like proteins, which catalyze the N6-carbamoylmethylation of adenines, are also linked to diverse families of bacterial transposases, suggesting that DNA modification by transposable elements might have a more general presence than previously appreciated. Among the other families of 2-oxoglutarate- and iron(II)-dependent dioxygenases identified in this study, one which is found in algae, is predicted to mainly comprise of RNA-modifying enzymes and shows a striking diversity in protein domain architectures suggesting the presence of RNA modifications with possibly unique adaptive roles. The results presented here are likely to provide the means for future investigation of unexpected epigenetic modifications, such as hydroxymethyl cytosine, that could profoundly impact our understanding of gene regulation and processes such as DNA demethylation