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Epigenetics. 2008 Jul-Aug;3(4):199-209. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Differential acetylation of histone H4 lysine during development of in vitro fertilized, cloned and parthenogenetically activated bovine embryos.

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Animal Development and Biotechnology Group, School of Biosciences, Division of Animal Physiology, Sutton Bonington Campus, University of Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK.


The oocyte is remarkable in its ability to remodel parental genomes following fertilization and to reprogram somatic nuclei after nuclear transfer (NT). To characterize the patterns of histone H4 acetylation and DNA methylation during development of bovine gametogenesis and embryogenesis, specific antibodies for histone H4 acetylated at lysine 5 (K5), K8, K12 and K16 residues and for methylated cytosine of CpG dinucleotides were used. Oocytes and sperm lacked the staining for histone acetylation, when DNA methylation staining was intense. In IVF zygotes, both pronuclei were transiently hyper-acetylated. However, the male pronucleus was faster in acquiring acetylated histones, and concurrently it was rapidly demethylated. Both pronuclei were equally acetylated during the S to G(2)-phase transition, while methylation staining was only still observed in the female pronucleus. In parthenogenetically activated oocytes, acetylation of the female pronucleus was enriched faster, while DNA remained methylated. A transient de-acetylation was observed in NT embryos reconstructed using a non-activated ooplast of a metaphase second arrested oocyte. Remarkably, the intensity of acetylation staining of most H4 lysine residues peaked at the 8-cell stage in IVF embryos, which coincided with zygotic genome activation and with lowest DNA methylation staining. At the blastocyst stage, trophectodermal cells of IVF and parthenogenetic embryos generally demonstrated more intense staining for most acetylated H4 lysine, whilst ICM cells stained very weakly. In contrast methylation of the DNA stained more intensely in ICM. NT blastocysts showed differential acetylation of blastomeres but not methylation. The inverse association of histone lysine acetylation and DNA methylation at different vital embryo stages suggests a mechanistically significant relationship. The complexities of these epigenetic interactions are discussed.

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