The maintenance of key germline derived DNA methylation patterns during preimplantation development depends on stores of DNA cytosine methyltransferase-1o (DNMT1o) provided by the oocyte. Dnmt1omat−/− mouse embryos born to Dnmt1Δ1o/Δ1o female mice lack DNMT1o protein and have disrupted genomic imprinting and associated phenotypic abnormalities. Here, we describe additional female-specific morphological abnormalities and DNA hypomethylation defects outside imprinted loci, restricted to extraembryonic tissue. Compared to male offspring, the placentae of female offspring of Dnmt1Δ1o/Δ1o mothers displayed a higher incidence of genic and intergenic hypomethylation and more frequent and extreme placental dysmorphology. The majority of the affected loci were concentrated on the X chromosome and associated with aberrant biallelic expression, indicating that imprinted X-inactivation was perturbed. Hypomethylation of a key regulatory region of Xite within the X-inactivation center was present in female blastocysts shortly after the absence of methylation maintenance by DNMT1o at the 8-cell stage. The female preponderance of placental DNA hypomethylation associated with maternal DNMT1o deficiency provides evidence of additional roles beyond the maintenance of genomic imprints for DNA methylation events in the preimplantation embryo, including a role in imprinted X chromosome inactivation.
During oocyte growth and maturation, vital proteins and enzymes are produced to ensure that, when fertilized, a healthy embryo will arise. When this natural process is interrupted, one or more of these essential elements can fail to be produced thus compromising the health of the future embryo. We are using a mouse model, lacking an enzyme (DNMT1o) produced in the oocyte and only required post-fertilization in the early embryo for the maintenance of inherited DNA methylation marks. Here, we reveal that oocytes lacking DNMT1o, when fertilized, generated conceptuses with a wide variety of placental abnormalities. These placental abnormalities were more frequent and severe in females, and showed specific genomic regions constantly deprived of their normal methylation marks. The affected genomic regions were concentrated on the X chromosome. Interestingly, we also found that a region important for the regulation of the X chromosome inactivation process was hypomethylated in female blastocysts and was associated with sex-specific abnormalities in the placenta, relaxation of imprinted X chromosome inactivation, and disruption of DNA methylation later in development. Our findings provide a novel unanticipated role for DNA methylation events taking place within the first few days of life specifically in female preimplantation embryos.