5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) is an oxidative derivative of 5-methylcytosine (5mC). Recent studies have revealed a sharp difference in the levels of 5hmC in 2 opposite DNA strands of a given chromosome and a chromosome-wide cell-to-cell variability in mammalian cells. This asymmetric 5hmC distribution was found in cultured cells, which may not fully mimic in vivo epigenetic processes. We have checked whether inter-chromosome and inter-cell variability of 5hmC patterns is typical for noncultured human cells. Using indirect immunofluorescence, we analyzed the localization of 5hmC and its co-distribution with 5mC on direct preparations of mitotically active cells from human embryonic lung and chorionic cytotrophoblast samples. We demonstrated 3 types of chromosomes according to the 5hmC accumulation pattern: hydroxymethylated (5hmC in both sister chromatids), hemihydroxymethylated (5hmC in only 1 sister chromatid), and nonhydroxymethylated ones. Each accumulation type was not specific to any particular chromosome, resulting in different 5hmC patterns between homologous chromosomes, among chromosomes within each metaphase plate, among metaphases in one tissue, and between the tissues. The 5mC distribution was stable: chromosomes were methylated in R-bands and, especially in embryonic lung cells, in the heterochromatic regions 1q12, 9q12, and 16q11.2. Our results provide the first evidence of inter-cell and inter-chromosome variability of 5hmC patterns in human noncultured embryonic and extraembryonic cells.

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