You are here

Nature DOI:10.1038/nature10960

A unique regulatory phase of DNA methylation in the early mammalian embryo.

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsSmith, ZD, Chan, MM, Mikkelsen, TS, Gu, H, Gnirke, A, Regev, A, Meissner, A
Date Published2012/03/28

DNA methylation is highly dynamic during mammalian embryogenesis. It is broadly accepted that the paternal genome is actively depleted of 5-methylcytosine at fertilization, followed by passive loss that reaches a minimum at the blastocyst stage. However, this model is based on limited data, and so far no base-resolution maps exist to support and refine it. Here we generate genome-scale DNA methylation maps in mouse gametes and from the zygote through post-implantation. We find that the oocyte already exhibits global hypomethylation, particularly at specific families of long interspersed element 1 and long terminal repeat retroelements, which are disparately methylated between gametes and have lower methylation values in the zygote than in sperm. Surprisingly, the oocyte contributes a unique set of differentially methylated regions (DMRs)--including many CpG island promoters--that are maintained in the early embryo but are lost upon specification and absent from somatic cells. In contrast, sperm-contributed DMRs are largely intergenic and become hypermethylated after the blastocyst stage. Our data provide a genome-scale, base-resolution timeline of DNA methylation in the pre-specified embryo, when this epigenetic modification is most dynamic, before returning to the canonical somatic pattern.