Almeida, R.D., Loose, M., Sottile, V., Matsa, E., Denning, C., Young, L., Johnson, A.D., Gering, M., and Ruzov, A. (2012) 5-hydroxymethyl-cytosine enrichment of non-committed cells is not a universal feature of vertebrate development. Epigenetics. 7(4):383-389.
5-hydroxymethyl-cytosine (5-hmC) is a cytosine modification that is relatively abundant in mammalian pre-implantation embryos and embryonic stem cells (ESC) derived from mammalian blastocysts. Recent observations imply that both 5-hmC and Tet1/2/3 proteins, catalyzing the conversion of 5-methyl-cytosine to 5-hmC, may play an important role in self renewal and differentiation of ESCs. Here we assessed the distribution of 5-hmC in zebrafish and chick embryos and found that, unlike in mammals, 5-hmC is immunochemically undetectable in these systems before the onset of organogenesis. In addition, Tet1/2/3 transcripts are either low or undetectable at corresponding stages of zebrafish development. However, 5-hmC is enriched in later zebrafish and chick embryos and exhibits tissue-specific distribution in adult zebrafish. Our findings show that 5-hmC enrichment of non-committed cells is not a universal feature of vertebrate development and give insights both into evolution of embryonic pluripotency and the potential role of 5-hmC in its regulation.