DNA methylation has pivotal regulatory roles in mammalian development, retrotransposon silencing, genomic imprinting, and X-chromosome inactivation. Cancer cells display highly dysregulated DNA methylation profiles characterized by global hypomethylation in conjunction with hypermethylation of promoter CpG islands that presumably lead to genome instability and aberrant expression of tumor suppressor genes or oncogenes. The recent discovery of ten-eleven-translocation (TET) family dioxygenases that oxidize 5mC to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), 5-formylcytosine (5fC), and 5-carboxylcytosine (5caC) in DNA has led to profound progress in understanding the mechanism underlying DNA demethylation. Among the three TET genes, TET2 recurrently undergoes inactivating mutations in a wide range of myeloid and lymphoid malignancies. TET2 functions as a bona fide tumor suppressor particularly in the pathogenesis of myeloid malignancies resembling chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML) and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) in human. Here we review diverse functions of TET proteins and the novel epigenetic marks that they generate in DNA methylation/demethylation dynamics and normal and malignant hematopoietic differentiation. The impact of TET2 inactivation in hematopoiesis and various mechanisms modulating the expression or activity of TET proteins are also discussed. Furthermore, we also present evidence that TET2 and TET3 collaborate to suppress aberrant hematopoiesis and hematopoietic transformation. A detailed understanding of the normal and pathological functions of TET proteins may provide new avenues to develop novel epigenetic therapies for treating hematological malignancies.
Keywords: 5-methylcytosine oxidation; TET proteins; hematopoiesis; lymphoid malignancies; malignant transformation; myeloid malignancies.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.