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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43658. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043658. Epub 2012 Aug 27.

Distinct DNA methylation dynamics of spermatogenic cell-specific intronless genes is associated with CpG content.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, Suita, Osaka, Japan.


In mammals, DNA methylation is restricted to cytosines of CpG dinucleotides, which are frequently found in short genomic regions including gene promoters. Methylation within CpG-rich regions around promoters tends to repress gene expression; thus, the CpG islands of housekeeping genes are normally unmethylated. We previously described a testis-specific single-exon gene containing a CpG-rich sequence that is methylated and thus repressed in somatic cells, whereas its expression in spermatogenic cells requires that it be hypomethylated. However, the relationship among the specific expression of spermatogenic genes, their methylation dynamics, and their CpG frequencies are poorly understood. Here, we analyzed the methylation patterns of the sphort genomic region around the transcription start site in spermatogenic cell-specific single-exon genes of various CpG contents. By using UniGene and Ensembl database analyses of the mouse genome and reverse transcription-PCR, we identified 39 single-exon genes that are exclusively expressed in spermatogeniccells. Regardless of their specific expression characteristics, genes containing higher (7 to 14 CpGs in 200 bp; mean = 12) and lower (2 to 6 CpGs in 200 bp; mean = 3.1) number ofCpG were hypo- and hyper-methylated, respectively, in all cell types examined, including spermatogeniccells. We found that genes with intermediate number of CpG (2 to 11 CpGs in 200 bp; mean = 6.9) are methylated in somatic cells, but not in male germ cells. These results suggest that DNA methylation dynamics of spermatogenic cell-specific single-exon genes are associated with CpG content, and the methylation status are stably maintained throughout male germ cell development.

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