Tet oxidizes thymine to 5-hydroxymethyluracil in mouse embryonic stem cell DNA
Nature Chemical Biology, 2014, doi:10.1038/nchembio.1532, published on 18.05.2014
Ten eleven translocation (Tet) enzymes oxidize the epigenetically important DNA base 5-methylcytosine (mC) stepwise to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (hmC), 5-formylcytosine and 5-carboxycytosine. It is currently unknown whether Tet-induced oxidation is limited to cytosine-derived nucleobases or whether other nucleobases are oxidized as well. We synthesized isotopologs of all major oxidized pyrimidine and purine bases and performed quantitative MS to show that Tet-induced oxidation is not limited to mC but that thymine is also a substrate that gives 5-hydroxymethyluracil (hmU) in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs). Using MS-based isotope tracing, we show that deamination of hmC does not contribute to the steady-state levels of hmU in mESCs. Protein pull-down experiments in combination with peptide tracing identifies hmU as a base that influences binding of chromatin remodeling proteins and transcription factors, suggesting that hmU has a specific function in stem cells besides triggering DNA repair.