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Epigenetics. 2009 Feb 16;4(2):76-9. Epub 2009 Feb 14.

Transient relaxation of transposon silencing at the onset of mammalian meiosis.

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Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution for Science, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


Postmigratory mouse primordial germ cells (PGCs) undergo extensive epigenetic remodeling that includes DNA methylation (DM) reprogramming of imprinted genes and, surprisingly, of transposable elements (TEs). Given the danger posed by TEs to the integrity of the germline, even a brief derepression of TEs is counterintuitive and puzzling. In the male fetal gonocytes, a sophisticated repressive mechanism that uses DM and TE-targeting piRNAs has evolved to stably silence TEs. A recent study has further increased the complexity of this problem by revealing that TE silencing is alleviated specifically at the onset of meiosis in testes lacking MAEL, a piRNA pathway protein. These observations and prior work of others are consistent with existence of an additional reprogramming event, transient relaxation of transposon silencing (TRTS), at the onset of both male and female meiosis in mice. In this Point of View we propose that TE expression is inherent to mammalian meiosis and discuss potential functional significance of this phenomenon.

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