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Development. 2004 May;131(10):2269-80. Epub 2004 Apr 21.

Regulation of histone H3 lysine 9 methylation in oocytes and early pre-implantation embryos.

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  • 1Department of Integrated Biosciences, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of Tokyo, Chiba 277-8562, Japan.

Abstract

Epigenetic modifications of the genome, such as covalent modification of histone residues, ensure appropriate gene activation during pre-implantation development, and are probably involved in the asymmetric reprogramming of the parental genomes after fertilization. We investigated the methylation patterns of histone H3 at lysine 9 (H3/K9), and the regulatory mechanism involved in the asymmetric remodeling of parental genomes during early preimplantation development in mice. Immunocytochemistry with an antibody that specifically recognizes methylated H3/K9 showed a very weak or absent methylation signal in the male pronucleus, whereas a distinct methylation signal was detected in the female pronucleus. This asymmetric H3/K9 methylation pattern in the different parental genomes persisted until the two-cell stage. However, de novo methylation of H3/K9 occurred and the asymmetry was lost during the four-cell stage. The unmethylated male pronucleus underwent de novo methylation when it was transferred into enucleated GV- or MII-stage oocytes, which suggests that histone H3 methylase is active before fertilization, but not afterwards, and that the asymmetric methylation pattern is generated by this change in methylase activity in the cytoplasm after fertilization. Thus, histone H3 is methylated only in the maternal chromosomes, which are present in the oocytes before fertilization, and is not methylated in the paternal chromosomes, which are absent. The maintenance of asymmetric H3/K9 methylation patterns in early embryos is an active process that depends on protein synthesis and zygotic transcription, as de novo methylation in the male pronucleus occurred when either protein synthesis or gene expression was inhibited by cycloheximide or alpha-amanitin, respectively. In addition, corresponding de novo methylation of H3/K9 and DNA occurred when the male pronucleus was transferred to an enucleated GV oocyte. Our results suggest that H3/K9 methylation is an epigenetic marker of parental genome origin during early preimplantation development.

PMID:
15102709
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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