Label‐Free Quantification of 5‐Azacytidines Directly in the Genome

Helv. Chim. Acta 2019, 102 (3), e1800229

https://doi.org/10.1002/hlca.201800229

Azacytidines (AzaC and AzadC) are clinically relevant pharmaceuticals that operate at the epigenetic level. They are integrated into the genome as antimetabolites to block DNA methylation events. This leads to a reduction of the 5‐methyl‐2′‐deoxycytidine (m5dC) level in the genome, which can activate epigenetically silenced genes. Because of the inherent chemical instability of Aza(d)Cs, their incorporation levels in DNA and RNA are difficult to determine, which hinders correlation of therapeutic effects with incorporation and removal processes. Existing methods involve radioactive labeling and are therefore unsuitable to monitor levels from patients. We report here a new direct chemical method that allows absolute quantification of the levels of incorporated AzaC and AzadC in both RNA and DNA. Furthermore, it clarifies that Aza(d)C accumulates to high levels (up to 12.9 million bases per genome). Although RNA‐based antimetabolites are often 2′‐deoxygenated in vivo and incorporated into DNA, for AzaC we see only limited incorporation into DNA. It accumulates predominantly in RNA where it, however, only leads to insignificant demethylation.

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