Adipose tissue is important for systemic metabolic homeostasis in response to environmental changes, and adipogenesis involves dynamic transcriptional regulation. Ten-eleven translocation (TET) enzymes (TET1, 2 and 3) oxidize the 5-methylcytosine (5mC) in DNA to 5-hydroxylmethylcytosine (5hmC), which associates with transcriptional activation. Step by step, 5-formylcytosine (5fC) and 5-carboxylcytosine (5caC) are further generated by TETs and the cytosine can be restored through base-excision repair. It is still unclear how DNA demethylation is involved in adipogenesis. Through a phenotypic screen, we found TET inhibition decreased adipocyte differentiation from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Comparing with the undifferentiated MSCs, the differentiated adipocytes exhibited much higher levels of 5hmC and slightly increased 5fC and 5caC. Higher 5hmC was associated with better differentiation at single-cell level by image analysis. TET1 is upregulated in differentiation and depletion of it significantly impaired the gain of 5hmC. Furthermore, Tet1 depletion significantly hampered the adipocyte differentiation. Using RNA-seq, 5mC and 5hmC-DNA immunoprecipitation, we found that Tet1 knockout led to lower expression of genes associated with lipid metabolism and fat cell differentiation. Genes with loss of 5mC or gain of 5hmC in adipocytes include Lipe, Bmp4 and Rxra, etc. RXRα agonist partially rescued the inhibitory effect of Tet1 knockout for adipogenesis. So, Rxra is one of the critical TET1 modulated genes. Together, TET1-mediated active DNA demethylation plays an important role in adipogenesis.
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