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Reprod Fertil Dev. 2009;21(1):31-6.

Genetic modification for bimaternal embryo development.

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Department of BioScience, Tokyo University of Agriculture, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 156-8502, Japan.


Full mammalian development typically requires genomes from both the oocyte and spermatozoon. Biparental reproduction is necessary because of parent-specific epigenetic modification of the genome during gametogenesis; that is, a maternal methylation imprint imposed during the oocyte growth period and a paternal methylation imprint imposed in pregonadal gonocytes. This leads to unequivalent expression of imprinted genes from the maternal and paternal alleles in embryos and individuals. It is possible to hypothesise that the maternal methylation imprint is necessary to prevent parthenogenesis, which extinguishes the opportunity for having descendents, whereas the paternal methylation imprint prevents parthenogenesis, ensuring that a paternal contribution is obligatory for any descendants. To date, there are several lines of direct evidence that the epigenetic modifications that occur during oocyte growth have a decisive effect on mammalian development. Using bimaternal embryos with two sets of maternal genomes, the present paper illustrates how parental methylation imprints are an obstacle to the progression of parthenogenesis.

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