5-Formylcytosine to cytosine conversion by C–C bond cleavage in vivo
Tet enzymes oxidize 5-methyl-deoxycytidine (mdC) to 5-hydroxymethyl-dC (hmdC), 5-formyl-dC (fdC) and 5-carboxy-dC (cadC) in DNA. It was proposed that fdC and cadC deformylate and decarboxylate, respectively, to dC over the course of an active demethylation process. This would re-install canonical dC bases at previously methylated sites. However, whether such direct C–C bond cleavage reactions at fdC and cadC occur in vivo remains an unanswered question. Here we report the incorporation of synthetic isotope- and (R)-2′-fluorine-labeled dC and fdC derivatives into the genome of cultured mammalian cells. Following the fate of these probe molecules using UHPLC–MS/MS provided quantitative data about the formed reaction products. The data show that the labeled fdC probe is efficiently converted into the corresponding labeled dC, most likely after its incorporation into the genome. Therefore, we conclude that fdC undergoes C–C bond cleavage in stem cells, leading to the direct re-installation of unmodified dC.