Enzymatic DNA oxidation: mechanisms and biological significance

Guo-Liang Xu, Colum Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


DNA methylation at cytosines (5mC) is a major epigenetic modification involved in the regulation of multiple biological processes in mammals. How methylation is reversed was until recently poorly understood. The family of dioxygenases commonly known as Ten-eleven translocation (Tet) proteins are responsible for the oxidation of 5mC into three new forms, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), 5-formylcytosine (5fC) and 5-carboxylcytosine (5caC). Current models link Tet-mediated 5mC oxidation with active DNA demethylation. The higher oxidation products (5fC and 5caC) are recognized and excised by the DNA glycosylase TDG via the base excision repair pathway. Like DNA methyltransferases, Tet enzymes are important for embryonic development. We will examine the mechanism and biological significance of Tet-mediated 5mC oxidation in the context of pronuclear DNA demethylation in mouse early embryos. In contrast to its role in active demethylation in the germ cells and early embryo, a number of lines of evidence suggest that the intragenic 5hmC present in brain may act as a stable mark instead. This short review explores mechanistic aspects of TET oxidation activity, the impact Tet enzymes have on epigenome organization and their contribution to the regulation of early embryonic and neuronal development. [BMB Reports 2014; 47(11): 609-618]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-618
JournalBMB Reports
Issue number11
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Nov 2014


  • DNA demethylation
  • Epigenetic reprogramming
  • Tet dioxygenase
  • TDG
  • 5hmC


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