Altering TET dioxygenase levels within physiological range affects DNA methylation dynamics of HEK293 cells

The TET family of dioxygenases (TET1/2/3) can convert 5-methylcytosine (5mC) into 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) and has been shown to be involved in active and passive DNA demethylation. Here, we demonstrate that altering TET dioxygenase levels within physiological range can affect DNA methylation dynamics of HEK293 cells. Overexpression of TET1 increased global 5hmC levels and was accompanied by mild DNA demethylation of promoters, gene bodies and CpG islands. Conversely, the simultaneous knockdown of TET1, TET2, and TET3 led to decreased global 5hmC levels and mild DNA hypermethylation of above-mentioned regions. The methylation changes observed in the overexpression and knockdown studies were mostly non-reciprocal and occurred with different preference depending on endogenous methylation and gene expression levels. Single-nucleotide 5hmC profiling performed on a genome-wide scale revealed that TET1 overexpression induced 5mC oxidation without a distribution bias among genetic elements and structures. Detailed analysis showed that this oxidation was related to endogenous 5hmC levels. In addition, our results support the notion that the effects of TET1 overexpression on gene expression are generally unrelated to its catalytic activity.