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Development. 1998 Mar;125(5):889-97.

Sex-specific exons control DNA methyltransferase in mammalian germ cells.

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  • 1Department of Genetics and Development, College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The spermatozoon and oocyte genomes bear sex-specific methylation patterns that are established during gametogenesis and are required for the allele-specific expression of imprinted genes in somatic tissues. The mRNA for Dnmt1, the predominant maintenance and de novo DNA (cytosine-5)-methyl transferase in mammals, is present at high levels in postmitotic murine germ cells but undergoes alternative splicing of sex-specific 5' exons, which controls the production and localization of enzyme during specific stages of gametogenesis. An oocyte-specific 5' exon is associated with the production of very large amounts of active Dnmt1 protein, which is truncated at the N terminus and sequestered in the cytoplasm during the later stages of oocyte growth, while a spermatocyte-specific 5' exon interferes with translation and prevents production of Dnmt1 during the prolonged crossing-over stage of male meiosis. During the course of postnatal oogenesis, Dnmt1 is present at high levels in nuclei only in growing dictyate oocytes, a stage during which gynogenetic developmental potential is lost and biparental developmental potential is gained.

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