Preimplantation embryo development involves four stages: fertilization, cell cleavage, morula and blastocyst formation. During these stages, maternal and zygotic epigenetic factors play crucial roles. The gene expression profile is changed dramatically, chromatin is modified and core histone elements undergo significant changes. Each preimplantation embryo stage has its own characteristic epigenetic profile, consistent with the acquisition of the capacity to support development. Moreover, histone modifications such as methylation and acetylation as well as other epigenetic events can act as regulatory switches of gene transcription. Because the epigenetic profile is largely related to differentiation, epigenetic dysfunction can give rise to developmental abnormalities. Thus, epigenetic profiling of the embryo is of pivotal importance clinically. Given the importance of these aspects, this review will mainly focus on the epigenetic profile during preimplantation embryo development, as well as interactions between epigenetic and genetic regulation in these early developmental stages.
Genome reprogramming in early mouse embryos is associated with nuclear reorganization and particular features such as the peculiar distribution of centromeric and pericentric heterochromatin during the first developmental stage. This zygote-specific heterochromatin organization could be observed both in maternal and paternal pronuclei after natural fertilization as well as in embryonic stem (ES) cell nuclei after nuclear transfer suggesting that this particular type of nuclear organization was essential for embryonic reprogramming and subsequent development.
Here, we show that remodeling into a zygotic-like organization also occurs after somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), supporting the hypothesis that reorganization of constitutive heterochromatin occurs regardless of the source and differentiation state of the starting material. However, abnormal nuclear remodeling was frequently observed after SCNT, in association with low developmental efficiency. When transient treatment with the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) was tested, we observed improved nuclear remodeling in 1-cell SCNT embryos that correlated with improved rates of embryonic development at subsequent stages.
Together, the results suggest that proper organization of constitutive heterochromatin in early embryos is involved in the initial developmental steps and might have long term consequences, especially in cloning procedures.
Though spermatozoon and egg contribute an equal share of nuclear DNA content to the newly formed embryo, there are inherent epigenetic differences between the paternal and maternal pronuclei in early cleavage stage embryos. Information about how to decipher sperm DNA in the embryo is established via sperm-specific DNA packaging that occurs during spermatogenesis. In addition to protamines, paternal factors that package sperm DNA distinctly from oocyte or somatic DNA include histones and their modifications, histone variants, chromatin-binding proteins, and non-coding RNAs. These evolutionarily conserved factors play interconnected roles in heterochromatin formation, gene regulation, and maintenance of genome integrity, which influence key processes after fertilization. This review focuses on recent developments from genomic and proteomic studies in model organisms showing that components closely associated with sperm DNA contribute to embryonic survival. These advances may reveal important insights into the treatment of infertility and use of assisted reproductive technologies.
chromatin; embryogenesis; epigenetics; fertility; paternal; spermatogenesis
Recent findings shed light on the coordination of two fundamental, yet mechanistically opposing, processes in the early mammalian embryo. During the oocyte-to-embryo transition and early preimplantation development nuclear reprogramming occurs. This resetting of the epigenome in maternal and paternal pronuclei to a ground state is the essential step ensuring totipotency in the zygote, the first embryonic stage. Radical, global DNA demethylation, which occurs actively in the paternal and passively in the maternal genome, is a prominent feature of nuclear reprogramming; yet, this process poses a danger to a subset of methylated sequences that must be preserved for their germline to soma inheritance. Genomic imprinting and its importance were demonstrated three decades ago by a series of experiments generating non-viable mammalian uniparental embryos. Indeed, imprinted loci, gene clusters with parent-of-origin specific gene expression patterns, must retain their differential methylation status acquired during gametogenesis throughout embryogenesis and in adult tissues. It is just recently that the molecular players that protect/maintain imprinting marks during reprogramming in preimplantation embryos have been identified, in particular, an epigenetic modifier complex formed by ZFP57 and TRIM28/KAP1. The interaction of these and other molecules with the newly formed embryonic chromatin and imprinted genes is discussed and highlighted herein.
Kap1; Trim28; Zfp57; 5-methyl-cytosine; embryogenesis; epigenetics; imprinting; reprogramming
We have used two different experimental approaches to demonstrate topological separation of parental genomes in preimplantation mouse embryos: mouse eggs fertilized with 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU)-labeled sperm followed by detection of BrdU in early diploid embryos, and differential heterochromatin staining in mouse interspecific hybrid embryos. Separation of chromatin according to parental origin was preserved up to the four-cell embryo stage and then gradually disappeared. In F1 hybrid animals, genome separation was also observed in a proportion of somatic cells. Separate nuclear compartments during preimplantation development, when extreme chromatin remodelling occurs, and possibly in some differentiated cell types, may be associated with epigenetic reprogramming.
5-bromodeoxyuridine; fluorescence in situ hybridization; mouse interspecific hybrids; nuclear architecture; preimplantation embryo
Embryonic development is a complex and dynamic process with frequent changes in gene expression, ultimately leading to cellular differentiation and commitment of various cell lines. These changes are likely preceded by changes to signaling cascades and/or alterations to the epigenetic program in specific cells. The process of epigenetic remodeling begins early in development. In fact, soon after the union of sperm and egg massive epigenetic changes occur across the paternal and maternal epigenetic landscape. The epigenome of these cells includes modifications to the DNA itself, in the form of DNA methylation, as well as nuclear protein content and modification, such as modifications to histones. Sperm chromatin is predominantly packaged by protamines, but following fertilization the sperm pronucleus undergoes remodeling in which maternally derived histones replace protamines, resulting in the relaxation of chromatin and ultimately decondensation of the paternal pronucleus. In addition, active DNA demethylation occurs across the paternal genome prior to the first cell division, effectively erasing many spermatogenesis derived methylation marks. This complex interplay begins the dynamic process by which two haploid cells unite to form a diploid organism. The biology of these events is central to the understanding of sexual reproduction, yet our knowledge regarding the mechanisms involved is extremely limited. This review will explore what is known regarding the post-fertilization epigenetic alterations of the paternal chromatin and the implications suggested by the available literature.
fertilization; epigenetics; chromatin; embryogenesis; DNA methylation
Epigenetic asymmetry between parental genomes and embryonic lineages exists at the earliest stages of mammalian development. The maternal genome in the zygote is highly methylated in both its DNA and its histones and most imprinted genes have maternal germline methylation imprints. The paternal genome is rapidly remodelled with protamine removal, addition of acetylated histones, and rapid demethylation of DNA before replication. A minority of imprinted genes have paternal germline methylation imprints. Methylation and chromatin reprogramming continues during cleavage divisions, but at the blastocyst stage lineage commitment to inner cell mass (ICM) or trophectoderm (TE) fate is accompanied by a dramatic increase in DNA and histone methylation, predominantly in the ICM. This may set up major epigenetic differences between embryonic and extraembryonic tissues, including in X-chromosome inactivation and perhaps imprinting. Maintaining epigenetic asymmetry appears important for development as asymmetry is lost in cloned embryos, most of which have developmental defects, and in particular an imbalance between extraembryonic and embryonic tissue development.
The natural reprogramming of the mammalian egg and sperm genomes is an efficient process that takes place in less than 24 hours and gives rise to a totipotent zygote. Transfer of somatic nuclei to mammalian oocytes also leads to their reprogramming and formation of totipotent embryos, albeit very inefficiently, and requiring an activation step. Reprogramming of differentiated cells to induced-pluripotent stem (iPS) cells takes place over a period of time substantially longer than reprogramming of the egg and sperm nuclei, and is significantly less efficient. The stochastic expression of endogenous proteins during this process would imply that controlled expression of specific proteins is crucial for reprogramming to take place. The fact that OCT4, NANOG and SOX2 form the core components of the pluripotency circuitry would imply that control at the transcriptional level is important for reprogramming to iPS cells. In contradistinction, the much more efficient reprogramming of the mammalian egg and sperm genomes implies other levels of control are necessary, such as chromatin remodeling, translational regulation and efficient degradation of no-longer-needed proteins and RNAs.
During mammalian development, chromatin dynamics and epigenetic marking are important for genome reprogramming. Recent data suggest an important role for the chromatin assembly machinery in this process. To analyze the role of chromatin assembly factor 1 (CAF-1) during pre-implantation development, we generated a mouse line carrying a targeted mutation in the gene encoding its large subunit, p150CAF-1. Loss of p150CAF-1 in homozygous mutants leads to developmental arrest at the 16-cell stage. Absence of p150CAF-1 in these embryos results in severe alterations in the nuclear organization of constitutive heterochromatin. We provide evidence that in wild-type embryos, heterochromatin domains are extensively reorganized between the two-cell and blastocyst stages. In p150CAF-1 mutant 16-cell stage embryos, the altered organization of heterochromatin displays similarities to the structure of heterochromatin in two- to four-cell stage wild-type embryos, suggesting that CAF-1 is required for the maturation of heterochromatin during preimplantation development. In embryonic stem cells, depletion of p150CAF-1 using RNA interference results in the mislocalization, loss of clustering, and decondensation of pericentric heterochromatin domains. Furthermore, loss of CAF-1 in these cells results in the alteration of epigenetic histone methylation marks at the level of pericentric heterochromatin. These alterations of heterochromatin are not found in p150CAF-1-depleted mouse embryonic fibroblasts, which are cells that are already lineage committed, suggesting that CAF-1 is specifically required for heterochromatin organization in pluripotent embryonic cells. Our findings underline the role of the chromatin assembly machinery in controlling the spatial organization and epigenetic marking of the genome in early embryos and embryonic stem cells.
Chromatin is the support of our genetic information. It is composed of numerous repeated units called nucleosomes, in which DNA wraps around a core of histone proteins. Modifications in the composition and biochemical properties of nucleosomes play major roles in the regulation of genome function. Such modifications are termed “epigenetic” when they are inherited across cell divisions and confer new information to chromatin, in addition to the genetic information provided by DNA. It is usually believed that during genome replication, the basic chromatin assembly machinery builds up “naïve” nucleosomes, and, in a subsequent step, nucleosomes are selectively modified by a series of enzymes to acquire epigenetic information. Here, the authors studied the role of a basic chromatin assembly factor (CAF-1) in mouse embryonic stem cells and early embryos. Surprisingly, they show that CAF-1 confers epigenetic information to specific genomic regions. In addition, this study revealed that CAF-1 is required for the proper spatial organization of chromosomes in the nucleus. This new knowledge may contribute to better understanding the role of chromatin in the maintenance of embryonic stem cell identity and plasticity.
An open chromatin architecture devoid of compact chromatin is thought to be associated with pluripotency in embryonic stem cells. Establishing this distinct epigenetic state may also be required for somatic cell reprogramming. However, there has been little direct examination of global structural domains of chromatin during the founding and loss of pluripotency that occurs in preimplantation mouse development. Here, we used electron spectroscopic imaging to examine large-scale chromatin structural changes during the transition from one-cell to early postimplantation stage embryos. In one-cell embryos chromatin was extensively dispersed with no noticeable accumulation at the nuclear envelope. Major changes were observed from one-cell to two-cell stage embryos, where chromatin became confined to discrete blocks of compaction and with an increased concentration at the nuclear envelope. In eight-cell embryos and pluripotent epiblast cells, chromatin was primarily distributed as an extended meshwork of uncompacted fibres and was indistinguishable from chromatin organization in embryonic stem cells. In contrast, lineage-committed trophectoderm and primitive endoderm cells, and the stem cell lines derived from these tissues, displayed higher levels of chromatin compaction, suggesting an association between developmental potential and chromatin organisation. We examined this association in vivo and found that deletion of Oct4, a factor required for pluripotency, caused the formation of large blocks of compact chromatin in putative epiblast cells. Together, these studies show that an open chromatin architecture is established in the embryonic lineages during development and is sufficient to distinguish pluripotent cells from tissue-restricted progenitor cells.
The epigenetic mechanisms involved in establishing and maintaining genomic imprinting are steadily being unmasked. The nucleosome remodeling and histone deacetylation (NuRD) complex is implicated in regulating DNA methylation and expression of the maternally expressed H19 gene in preimplantation mouse embryos. To dissect further the function of the NuRD complex in genomic imprinting, we employed an RNA interference (RNAi) strategy to deplete the NuRD complex component Metastasis Tumor Antigen 2 (MTA2). We found that Mta2 is the only zygotically expressed Mta gene prior to the blastocyst stage, and that RNAi-mediated knockdown of Mta2 transcript leads to biallelic H19 expression and loss of DNA methylation in the differentially methylated region in blastocysts. In addition, biallelic expression of the paternally expressed Peg3 gene, but not Snrpn, is also observed in blastocysts following Mta2 knockdown. Loss of MTA2 protein does not result in a decrease in abundance of other NuRD components, including methyl-binding-CpG-binding domain protein 3 (MBD3), histone deacetylases 1 and 2 (HDACs 1 and 2), and chromodomain helicase DNA-binding protein 4 (CHD4). Taken together, our results support a role for MTA2 within the NuRD complex in genomic imprinting.
The metastasis tumor antigen 2 (MTA2) protein, a component of the NuRD chromatin remodeling complex, is involved in genomic imprinting during mouse preimplantation development.
DNA methylation; embryo; genomic imprinting; H19; MTA; NuRD complex; Peg3; RNAi
During preimplantation development, the embryo must establish totipotency and enact the earliest differentiation choices, processes that involve extensive chromatin modification. To identify novel developmental regulators, we screened for genes that are preferentially transcribed in the pluripotent inner cell mass (ICM) of the mouse blastocyst. Genes that encode chromatin remodeling factors were prominently represented in the ICM, including Chd1l, a member of the Snf2 gene family. Chd1l is developmentally regulated and expressed in embryonic stem (ES) cells, but its role in development has not been investigated. Here we show that inhibiting Chd1l protein production by microinjection of antisense morpholinos causes arrest prior to the blastocyst stage. Despite this important function in vivo, Chd1l is non-essential for cultured ES cell survival, pluripotency, or differentiation, suggesting that Chd1l is vital for events in embryos that are distinct from events in ES cells. Our data reveal a novel role for the chromatin remodeling factor Chd1l in the earliest cell divisions of mammalian development.
Chd1l; ALC1; Preimplantation development; ICM; ES cells; Chromatin remodeling
The early preimplantation mouse embryo is a unique system where it is possible to explore the foundations of totipotency and differentiation. Following fertilization, a single cell, the zygote, will give rise to all tissues of the organism. The first signs of differentiation in the embryo are evident at the blastocyst stage with the formation of the trophectoderm, a differentiated tissue that envelopes the inner cell mass. The question of when and how the cells start to be different from each other in the embryo is central to developmental biology: as cell fate decisions are undertaken, loss of totipotency comes about. Although the blastomeres of the preimplantation embryo are totipotent, as the embryo develops some differences appear to develop between them which are, at least partially, related to the epigenetic information of each of these cells. The hypothesis of epigenetic asymmetries acting as driver for lineage allocation is presented. Although there are now some indications that epigenetic mechanisms are involved in cell fate determination, much work is needed to discover how such mechanisms are set in play upon fertilization and how they are transmitted through cell division. These considerations are further discussed in the context of preimplantation genetic diagnosis: does it matter to the embryo which cell is used for genetic diagnosis? The exquisite complexity and richness of chromatin-regulated events in the early embryo will certainly be the subject of exciting research in the future.
cell fate; epigenetics; histone methylation; mouse embryo; pluripotency
In the mouse zygote the paternal genome undergoes dramatic structural and epigenetic changes. Chromosomes are decondensed, protamines replaced by histones and DNA is rapidly and actively demethylated. The epigenetic asymmetry between parental genomes remains at least until the 2-cell stage suggesting functional differences between paternal and maternal genomes during early cleavage stages.
Here we analyzed the timing of histone deposition on the paternal pronucleus and the dynamics of histone H3 methylation (H3/K4mono-, H3/K4tri- and H3/K9di-methylation) immediately after fertilization. Whereas maternal chromatin maintains all types of histone H3 methylation throughout the zygotic development, paternal chromosomes acquire new and unmodified histones shortly after fertilization. In the following hours we observe a gradual increase in H3/K4mono-methylation whereas H3/K4tri-methylation is not present before latest pronuclear stages. Histone H3/K9di-methylation is completely absent from the paternal pronucleus, including metaphase chromosomes of the first mitotic stage.
Parallel to the epigenetic asymmetry in DNA methylation, chromatin modifications are also different between both parental genomes in the very first hours post fertilization. Whereas methylation at H3/K4 gradually becomes similar between both genomes, H3/K9 methylation remains asymmetric.
Purpose:Our purpose was to demonstrate the dynamics of the human sperm centrosome during fertilization and cleavage.
Methods:Human gametes, fertilized oocytes, and preimplantation embryos were examined by transmission electron microscopy.
Results:The functional sperm centrosome containing a typical centriole (proximal) is inherited at fertilization and forms a sperm monoaster. It then replicates and is perpetuated during cleavage. It organizes the mitotic apparatus at each stage of cleavage up to the hatching blastocyst stage. Bipolar spindles are formed in all monospermic and most dispermic embryos. Occasionally, two sperm asters and tripolar spindles are formed in dispermic embryos. Centrioles are associated with pronuclei and nuclei at interphases when they duplicate and occupy pivotal positions at spindle poles during mitoses. The maternal centrosome is not functional.
Conclusions:The human embryo shows paternal centrosome inheritance and perpetuation like most other animals. Inheritance of defective centrosomes may lead to abnormal cleavage and contribute to infertility.
sperm centrosome (centriole); mitosis; embryo; infertility; ultrastructure
Poly (ADP-ribosyl)ation is a covalent modification of many nuclear proteins. It has a strong chromatin modifying potential involved in DNA repair, transcription and replication. Its role during preimplantation development is unknown.
We have observed strong but transient synthesis of poly ADP-ribose polymers on decondensing chromosomes of fertilized and parthenogenetically activated mouse oocytes. Inhibition of this transient upregulation with a specific enzyme inhibitor, 3-aminobenzamide, has long-term effects on the postimplantation development of the embryos. In addition, inhibition of poly (ADP-ribosyl)ation at the 4–8 cell stage selectively blocks morula compaction.
These observations suggest that poly (ADP-ribosyl)ation is involved in the epigenetic chromatin remodeling in the zygote.
The early stage of mammalian development from fertilization to implantation is a period when global and differential changes in the epigenetic landscape occur in paternally and maternally derived genomes, respectively. The sperm and egg DNA methylation profiles are very different from each other, and just after fertilization, only the paternally derived genome is subjected to genome-wide hydroxylation of 5-methylcytosine, resulting in an epigenetic asymmetry in parentally derived genomes. Although most of these differences are not present by the blastocyst stage, presumably due to passive demethylation, the maintenance of genomic imprinting memory and X chromosome inactivation in this stage are of critical importance for post-implantation development. Zygotic gene activation from paternally or maternally derived genomes also starts around the two-cell stage, presumably in a different manner in each of them. It is during this period that embryo manipulation, including assisted reproductive technology, is normally performed; so it is critically important to determine whether embryo manipulation procedures increase developmental risks by disturbing subsequent gene expression during the embryonic and/or neonatal development stages. In this review, we discuss the effects of various embryo manipulation procedures applied at the fertilization stage in relation to the epigenetic asymmetry in pre-implantation development. In particular, we focus on the effects of intracytoplasmic sperm injection that can result in long-lasting transcriptome disturbances, at least in mice.
assisted reproductive technology; intracytoplasmic sperm injection; epigenetic asymmetry; genomic imprinting; X chromosome inactivation; zygotic gene activation
Epigenetic information, such as parental imprints, can be transmitted with genetic information from parent to offspring through the germ line. Recent reports show that histone modifications can be transmitted through sperm as a component of this information transfer. How the information that is transferred is established in the parent and maintained in the offspring is poorly understood. We previously described a form of imprinted X inactivation in Caenorhabditis elegans where dimethylation on histone 3 at lysine 4 (H3K4me2), a mark of active chromatin, is excluded from the paternal X chromosome (Xp) during spermatogenesis and persists through early cell divisions in the embryo. Based on the observation that the Xp (unlike the maternal X or any autosome) is largely transcriptionally inactive in the paternal germ line, we hypothesized that transcriptional activity in the parent germ line may influence epigenetic information inherited by and maintained in the embryo. We report that chromatin modifications and histone variant patterns assembled in the germ line can be retained in mature gametes. Furthermore, despite extensive chromatin remodeling events at fertilization, the modification patterns arriving with the gametes are largely retained in the early embryo. Using transgenes, we observe that expression in the parental germline correlates with differential chromatin assembly that is replicated and maintained in the early embryo. Expression in the adult germ cells also correlates with more robust expression in the somatic lineages of the offspring. These results suggest that differential expression in the parental germ lines may provide a potential mechanism for the establishment of parent-of-origin epigenomic content. This content can be maintained and may heritably affect gene expression in the offspring.
Epigenetic information such as parental imprints can be transmitted along with genetic information through the germ line from parent to offspring. Recent reports show that histone modifications marking developmentally regulated loci can be transmitted through sperm as a component of this information transfer. How the information that is transferred is established in the parent and maintained in the offspring is poorly understood. Here we show that expression in the parental germ line can influence the establishment of information that is then replicated and maintained in the early embryo, suggesting a potential mechanism for the establishment of parent-of-origin epigenomic content.
about 15% to 30% of the DNA in human sperm is packed in nucleosomes and transmission of this fraction to the embryo potentially serves as a mechanism to facilitate paternal epigenetic programs during embryonic development. However, hitherto it has not been established whether these nucleosomes are removed like the protamines or indeed contribute to paternal zygotic chromatin, thereby potentially contributing to the epigenome of the embryo.
to clarify the fate of sperm-derived nucleosomes we have used the deposition characteristics of histone H3 variants from which follows that H3 replication variants present in zygotic paternal chromatin prior to S-phase originate from sperm. We have performed heterologous ICSI by injecting human sperm into mouse oocytes. Probing these zygotes with an antibody highly specific for the H3.1/H3.2 replication variants showed a clear signal in the decondensed human sperm chromatin prior to S-phase. In addition, staining of human multipronuclear zygotes also showed the H3.1/H3.2 replication variants in paternal chromatin prior to DNA replication.
these findings reveal that sperm-derived nucleosomal chromatin contributes to paternal zygotic chromatin, potentially serving as a template for replication, when epigenetic information can be copied. Hence, the execution of epigenetic programs originating from transmitted paternal chromatin during subsequent embryonic development is a logical consequence of this observation.
In many animal species, the sperm DNA is packaged with male germ line–specific chromosomal proteins, including protamines. At fertilization, these non-histone proteins are removed from the decondensing sperm nucleus and replaced with maternally provided histones to form the DNA replication competent male pronucleus. By studying a point mutant allele of the Drosophila Hira gene, we previously showed that HIRA, a conserved replication-independent chromatin assembly factor, was essential for the assembly of paternal chromatin at fertilization. HIRA permits the specific assembly of nucleosomes containing the histone H3.3 variant on the decondensing male pronucleus. We report here the analysis of a new mutant allele of Drosophila Hira that was generated by homologous recombination. Surprisingly, phenotypic analysis of this loss of function allele revealed that the only essential function of HIRA is the assembly of paternal chromatin during male pronucleus formation. This HIRA-dependent assembly of H3.3 nucleosomes on paternal DNA does not require the histone chaperone ASF1. Moreover, analysis of this mutant established that protamines are correctly removed at fertilization in the absence of HIRA, thus demonstrating that protamine removal and histone deposition are two functionally distinct processes. Finally, we showed that H3.3 deposition is apparently not affected in Hira mutant embryos and adults, suggesting that different chromatin assembly machineries could deposit this histone variant.
Chromatin is composed of basic units called nucleosomes, in which DNA wraps around a core of histone proteins. HIRA is a histone chaperone that is specifically involved in the assembly of nucleosomes containing H3.3, a universally conserved type of histone 3. To understand the function of HIRA in vivo, the authors generated mutant fruit flies with a non-functional Hira gene. Surprisingly, mutant flies were viable, but females were completely sterile. By analysing the female fruit flies' eggs, the authors found that in the absence of HIRA protein, the sperm nucleus was unable to participate in the formation of the zygote. In Drosophila, as in many animals, the condensed sperm chromatin contains protamines instead of histones. The authors found that the only crucial role of HIRA in flies was to assemble nucleosomes containing H3.3 in the male pronucleus, after the removal of protamines. This fundamental process, which is presumably also controlled by HIRA in vertebrates, allows the paternal DNA to reconstitute its chromatin and participate in the development of the embryo.
The life cycle of mammals begins when a sperm enters an egg. Immediately after fertilization, both the maternal and paternal genomes undergo dramatic reprogramming to prepare for the transition from germ cell to somatic cell transcription programs 1. One of the molecular events that takes place during this transition is the demethylation of the paternal genome 2,3. Despite extensive efforts, the factors responsible for paternal DNA demethylation have not been identified 4. To search for such factors, we developed a live cell imaging system that allows us to monitor the paternal DNA methylation state in zygotes. Through siRNA-mediated knockdown in zygotes, we identified Elp3/KAT9, a component of the elongator complex 5, to be important for paternal DNA demethylation. We demonstrate that knockdown of Elp3 impairs paternal DNA demethylation as indicated by reporter binding, immunostaining and bisulfite sequencing. Similar results were also obtained when other elongator components, Elp1 and Elp4, were knocked down. Importantly, injection of mRNA encoding the Elp3 radical SAM domain mutant, but not the HAT domain mutant, into MII oocytes before fertilization also impaired paternal DNA demethylation indicating that the SAM radical domain is involved in the demethylation process. Thus, our study not only establishes a critical role for the elongator in zygotic paternal genome demethylation, but also suggests that the demethylation process may be mediated through a reaction that requires an intact radical SAM domain.
Somatic cell nuclear cloning has repeatedly demonstrated striking reversibility of epigenetic regulation of cell differentiation. Upon injection into eggs, the donor nuclei exhibit global chromatin decondensation, which might contribute to reprogramming the nuclei by derepressing dormant genes. Decondensation of sperm chromatin in eggs is explained by the replacement of sperm-specific histone variants with egg-type histones by the egg protein nucleoplasmin (Npm). However, little is known about the mechanisms of chromatin decondensation in somatic nuclei that do not contain condensation-specific histone variants. Here we found that Npm could widely decondense chromatin in undifferentiated mouse cells without overt histone exchanges but with specific epigenetic modifications that are relevant to open chromatin structure. These modifications included nucleus-wide multiple histone H3 phosphorylation, acetylation of Lys 14 in histone H3, and release of heterochromatin proteins HP1β and TIF1β from the nuclei. The protein kinase inhibitor staurosporine inhibited chromatin decondensation and these epigenetic modifications with the exception of H3 acetylation, potentially linking these chromatin events. At the functional level, Npm pretreatment of mouse nuclei facilitated activation of four oocyte-specific genes from the nuclei injected into Xenopus laevis oocytes. Future molecular elucidation of chromatin decondensation by Npm will significantly contribute to our understanding of the plasticity of cell differentiation.
Mouse zygotes do not activate apoptosis in response to DNA damage. We previously reported a unique form of inducible sperm DNA damage termed sperm chromatin fragmentation (SCF). SCF mirrors some aspects of somatic cell apoptosis in that the DNA degradation is mediated by reversible double strand breaks caused by topoisomerase 2B (TOP2B) followed by irreversible DNA degradation by a nuclease(s). Here, we created zygotes using spermatozoa induced to undergo SCF (SCF zygotes) and tested how they responded to moderate and severe paternal DNA damage during the first cell cycle. We found that the TUNEL assay was not sensitive enough to identify the breaks caused by SCF in zygotes in either case. However, paternal pronuclei in both groups stained positively for γH2AX, a marker for DNA damage, at 5 hrs after fertilization, just before DNA synthesis, while the maternal pronuclei were negative. We also found that both pronuclei in SCF zygotes with moderate DNA damage replicated normally, but paternal pronuclei in the SCF zygotes with severe DNA damage delayed the initiation of DNA replication by up to 12 hrs even though the maternal pronuclei had no discernable delay. Chromosomal analysis of both groups confirmed that the paternal DNA was degraded after S-phase while the maternal pronuclei formed normal chromosomes. The DNA replication delay caused a marked retardation in progression to the 2-cell stage, and a large portion of the embryos arrested at the G2/M border, suggesting that this is an important checkpoint in zygotic development. Those embryos that progressed through the G2/M border died at later stages and none developed to the blastocyst stage. Our data demonstrate that the zygote responds to sperm DNA damage through a non-apoptotic mechanism that acts by slowing paternal DNA replication and ultimately leads to arrest in embryonic development.
During preimplantation development in mammals, distinct epigenetic marks on oocyte and sperm DNA are remodeled to an embryonic pattern. A recent study examining global methylation of repetitive elements in various mammals showed that the reprogramming that occurs during normal preimplantation development is aberrant in cloned embryos.
This paper aimed to study the dynamics of early embryonic development, in terms of redistribution of cytoskeleton (microtubules, actin microfilaments) and chromatin configurations during the first cell cycle in swamp buffalo embryos. Oocytes were matured and fertilized in vitro, and they were fixed at various time points after IVF. At 6 h after IVF, 44.4% matured oocytes were penetrated by spermatozoa. Partial ZP digestion, however, did not improve fertilization rate compared to control (P > .05). At 12 h after IVF, the fertilized oocytes progressed to the second meiotic division and formed the female pronucleus simultaneously with the paternal chromatin continued to decondense. A sperm aster was observed radiating from the base of the decondensing sperm head. At 18 h after IVF, most presumptive zygotes had reached the pronuclear stage. The sperm aster was concurrently enlarged to assist the migration and apposition of pronuclei. Cell cleavage was facilitated by microfilaments and firstly observed by 30 h after IVF. In conclusion, the cytoskeleton actively involves with the process of fertilization and cleavage in swamp buffalo oocytes. The centrosomal material is paternally inherited. Fertilization failure is predominantly caused by poor sperm penetration. However, partial digestion of ZP did not improve fertilization rate.