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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jan 2;104(1):228-33. Epub 2006 Dec 26.

A unique configuration of genome-wide DNA methylation patterns in the testis.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Human Genetics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.


In the mammalian lifecycle, the two periods of genome-wide epigenetic reprogramming are in the early embryo, when somatic patterns are set, and during germ cell development. Although some differences between the reprogrammed states of somatic and germ cells have been reported, overall patterns of genomic methylation are considered to be similar. Using restriction landmark genomic scanning to examine approximately 2,600 loci distributed randomly throughout the genome, we find that the methylation status of testicular DNA is highly distinct, displaying eightfold the number of hypomethylated loci relative to somatic tissues. Identification and analysis of >300 loci show that these regions are generally located within nonrepetitive sequences that are away from CpG islands and 5' regions of genes. We show that a contributing factor for these differences is that the methylation state of non-CpG-island DNA is correlated with the regional level of GC content within chromosomes and that this relationship is inverted between the testis and somatic tissues. We also show that in Dnmt3L-deficient mice, which exhibit infertility associated with abnormal chromosomal structures in germ cells, this unique testicular DNA methylation pattern is not established. These special properties of testicular DNA point to a broad, distinct epigenetic state that may be involved in maintaining a unique chromosomal structure in male germ cells.

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