Low values of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), the ‘‘sixth base,’’ are associated with anaplasia in human brain tumors

Int. J. Cancer, 2012, DOI: 10.1002/ijc.27429, 131, 1577–1590 published on 10.01.2012

Int. J. Cancer, online article

5-Methylcytosine (5 mC) in genomic DNA has important epigenetic functions in embryonic development and tumor biology. 5-Hydroxymethylcytosine (5 hmC) is generated from 5 mC by the action of the TET (Ten-Eleven-Translocation) enzymes and may be an intermediate to further oxidation and finally demethylation of 5 mC. We have used immunohistochemistry (IHC) and isotope-based liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to investigate the presence and distribution of 5 hmC in human brain and brain tumors. In the normal adult brain, IHC identified 61.5% 5 hmC positive cells in the cortex and 32.4% 5 hmC in white matter (WM) areas. In tumors, positive staining of cells ranged from 1.1% in glioblastomas (GBMs) (WHO Grade IV) to 8.9% in Grade I gliomas (pilocytic astrocytomas). In the normal adult human brain, LC-MS also showed highest values in cortical areas (1.17% 5 hmC/dG [deoxyguanosine]), in the cerebral WM we measured around 0.70% 5 hmC/dG. levels were related to tumor differentiation, ranging from lowest values of 0.078% 5 hmC/dG in GBMs (WHO Grade IV) to 0.24% 5 hmC/dG in WHO Grade II diffuse astrocytomas. 5 hmC measurements were unrelated to 5 mC values. We find that the number of 5 hmC positive cells and the amount of 5 hmC/dG in the genome that has been proposed to be related to pluripotency and lineage commitment in embryonic stem cells is also associated with brain tumor differentiation and anaplasia.

TU München
Helmholtz München
MPI of Neurobiology
MPI of Biochemistry