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Development. 1991 Sep;113(1):119-27.

Methylation levels of maternal and paternal genomes during preimplantation development.

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  • 1Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics Research, Department of Molecular Embryology, Babraham, Cambridge, UK.


The methylation status of three highly repeated sequences was studied in sperm, eggs and preimplantation embryos with different combinations of parental chromosomes. High levels of methylation of the IAP and MUP sequence families were found in sperm and in eggs, whereas the L1 repeat was found to be highly methylated in sperm but only about 42% methylated in eggs. To assess how the two parental genomes behaved during preimplantation development, normal, fertilised embryos were compared with parthenogenetic embryos where the chromosomes are exclusively of maternal origin. It was observed that the high levels of methylation at the IAP and MUP sequences were retained through early development, with the first signs of demethylation at the IAP sequences apparent on both parental chromosomes in the blastocyst. Methylation at the sperm-derived L1 sequences dropped to about the same level as that of the egg-derived sequences by the late 2-cell stage, both then remain at this intermediate level until around the time of cavitation when levels fell to about 10% in the blastocyst. High levels of DNA methylase were detected in germinal vesicle and metaphase II oocytes; these high levels were maintained in fertilised and parthenogenetic embryos through into the morula and then declined to be undetectable in the blastocyst. Our comparison of maternal and paternal genomes suggests that methylation levels at repeat sequences are remarkably similar at the time of fertilisation or, as in the case of the L1 sequences, they become so during the first few cell cycles. Hence, there do not appear to be global methylation differences between the genomes that are retained through preimplantation development.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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