Germline-derived DNA methylation and early embryo epigenetic reprogramming: The selected survival of imprints.

The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology

PubMedID: 25966912

Monk D. Germline-derived DNA methylation and early embryo epigenetic reprogramming: The selected survival of imprints. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2015;.
DNA methylation is an essential epigenetic mechanism involved in many essential cellular processes. During development epigenetic reprograming takes place during gametogenesis and then again in the pre-implantation embryo. These two reprograming windows ensure genome-wide removal of methylation in the primordial germ cells so that sex-specific signatures can be acquired in the sperm and oocyte. Following fertilization the majority of this epigenetic information is erased to give the developing embryo an epigenetic profile coherent with pluripotency. It is estimated that ~65% of the genome is differentially methylated between the gametes, however following embryonic reprogramming only parent-of-origin methylation at known imprinted loci remains. This suggests that trans-acting factors such as Zfp57 can discriminate imprinted differentially methylated regions (DMRs) from the thousands of CpG rich regions that are differentially marked in the gametes. Recently transient imprinted DMRs have been identified suggesting that these loci are also protected from pre-implantation reprograming but succumb to de novo remethylation at the implantation stage. This highlights that "ubiquitous" imprinted loci are also resilient to gaining methylation by protecting their unmethylated alleles. In this review I examine the processes involved in epigenetic reprograming and the mechanisms that ensure allelic methylation at imprinted loci is retained throughout the life of the organism, discussing the critical differences between mouse and humans. This article is part of a Directed Issue entitled: Epigenetics Dynamics in development and disease.