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Cell Res. 2012 Dec;22(12):1640-9. doi: 10.1038/cr.2012.160. Epub 2012 Nov 27.

Transcriptional activation of transposable elements in mouse zygotes is independent of Tet3-mediated 5-methylcytosine oxidation.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, 200 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The methylation state of the paternal genome is rapidly reprogrammed shortly after fertilization. Recent studies have revealed that loss of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) in zygotes correlates with appearance of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), 5-formylcytosine (5fC), and 5-carboxylcytosine (5caC). This process is mediated by Tet3 and the 5mC oxidation products generated in zygotes are gradually lost during preimplantation development through a replication-dependent dilution process. Despite these findings, the biological significance of Tet3-mediated oxidation of 5mC to 5hmC/5fC/5caC in zygotes is unknown. DNA methylation plays an important role in silencing gene expression including the repression of transposable elements (TEs). Given that the activation of TEs during preimplantation development correlates with loss of DNA methylation, it is believed that paternal DNA demethylation may have an important role in TE activation. Here we examined this hypothesis and found that Tet3-mediated 5mC oxidation does not have a significant contribution to TE activation. We show that the expression of LINE-1 (long interspersed nucleotide element 1) and ERVL (endogenous retroviruses class III) are activated from both paternal and maternal genomes in zygotes. Inhibition of 5mC oxidation by siRNA-mediated depletion of Tet3 affected neither TE activation, nor global transcription in zygotes. Thus, our study provides the first evidence demonstrating that activation of both TEs and global transcription in zygotes are independent of Tet3-mediated 5mC oxidation.

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