5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) is a recently discovered epigenetic modification that is altered in cancers. Genome-wide assays for 5-hmC determination are needed as many of the techniques for 5-methylcytosine (5-mC) determination, including methyl-sensitive restriction digestion and bisulfate sequencing cannot distinguish between 5-mC and 5-hmC. Glycosylation of 5-hmC residues by betaglucosyl transferase (b-GT) can make CCGG residues insensitive to digestion by MspI. Restriction digestion by HpaII, MspI or MspI after b-GT conversion, followed by adapter ligation, massive parallel sequencing and custom bioinformatic analysis allowed us determine distribution of 5-mC and 5-hmC at single base pair resolution at MspI restriction sites. The resulting HpaII tiny fragment Enrichment by Ligation-mediated PCR with b-GT (HELP-GT) assay identified 5-hmC loci that were validated at global level by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and the locus-specific level by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction of 5-hmC pulldown DNA. Hydroxymethylation at both promoter and intragenic locations correlated positively with gene expression. Analysis of pancreatic cancer samples revealed striking redistribution of 5-hmC sites in cancer cells and demonstrated enrichment of this modification at many oncogenic promoters such as GATA6. The HELP-GT assay allowed global determination of 5-hmC and 5-mC from low amounts of DNA and with the use of modest sequencing resources. Redistribution of 5-hmC seen in cancer highlights the importance of determination of this modification in conjugation with conventional methylome analysis.
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