Here we present APOBEC-coupled epigenetic sequencing (ACE-seq), a bisulfite-free method for localizing 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) at single-base resolution with low DNA input. The method builds on the observation that AID/APOBEC family DNA deaminase enzymes can potently discriminate between cytosine modification states and exploits the non-destructive nature of enzymatic, rather than chemical, deamination. ACE-seq yielded high-confidence 5hmC profiles with at least 1,000-fold less DNA input than conventional methods. Applying ACE-seq to generate a base-resolution map of 5hmC in tissue-derived cortical excitatory neurons, we found that 5hmC was almost entirely confined to CG dinucleotides. The whole-genome map permitted cytosine, 5-methylcytosine (5mC) and 5hmC to be parsed and revealed genomic features that diverged from global patterns, including enhancers and imprinting control regions with high and low 5hmC/5mC ratios, respectively. Enzymatic deamination overcomes many challenges posed by bisulfite-based methods, thus expanding the scope of epigenome profiling to include scarce samples and opening new lines of inquiry regarding the role of cytosine modifications in genome biology.
Journal: Nature biotechnology