Lack of Major Genome-Wide DNA Methylation Changes in Succinate-Treated Human Epithelial Cells

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 May 18;23(10):5663. doi: 10.3390/ijms23105663.


The tricarboxylic acid (TCA) metabolite, succinate, is a competitive inhibitor of dioxygenase enzymes that require alpha ketoglutarate as a cofactor. One family of dioxygenases are the ten-eleven translocation (TET) proteins, which oxidize 5-methylcytosine to promote DNA demethylation. Inhibition of DNA demethylation is expected to lead to DNA hypermethylation, at least at genomic regions at which TET proteins are engaged. We treated human bronchial epithelial cells with succinate for five days and confirmed its effect on TET protein function by observing diminished formation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine, the first oxidation product of the TET enzymatic reaction. We then analyzed global DNA methylation patterns by performing whole-genome bisulfite sequencing. Unexpectedly, we did not observe differentially methylated regions (DMRs) that reached genome-wide statistical significance. We observed a few regions of clustered DNA hypomethylation, which was also not expected based on the proposed mechanisms. We discuss potential explanations for our observations and the implications of these findings for tumorigenesis.

Keywords: 5-methylcytosine; DNA methylation; TET proteins; dioxygenases; succinate.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Dioxygenases* / genetics
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Succinates
  • Succinic Acid / pharmacology


  • Succinates
  • DNA
  • Succinic Acid
  • Dioxygenases