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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Mar 13;109(11):4163-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201990109. Epub 2012 Feb 27.

Primary epimutations introduced during intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are corrected by germline-specific epigenetic reprogramming.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78249, USA.


The use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) has become increasingly common worldwide and is now responsible for 2-3% of children born in developed countries. Multiple reports have suggested that ART-conceived children are more likely to develop rare epigenetic disorders such as Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome or Angelman Syndrome, both of which involve dysregulation of imprinted genes. Anecdotal reports suggest that animals produced with ART that manifest apparent epigenetic defects typically do not transmit these epimutations to subsequent generations when allowed to breed naturally, but this hypothesis has not been directly studied. We analyzed allele-specific DNA methylation and expression at three imprinted genes, H19, Snrpn, and Peg3, in somatic cells from adult mice generated with the use of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a type of ART. Epimutations were detected in most of the ICSI-derived mice, but not in somatic cells of their offspring produced by natural mating. We examined germ cells from the ICSI mice that exhibited epimutations in their somatic cells and confirmed normal epigenetic reprogramming of the three imprinted genes analyzed. Collectively, these results confirm that ART procedures can lead to the formation of primary epimutations, but while such epimutations are likely to be maintained indefinitely in somatic cells of the ART-derived individuals, they are normally corrected in the germ line by epigenetic reprogramming and thus, not propagated to subsequent generations.

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