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31.03.16 Sperm is epigenetically programmed to regulate embryonic genes

last modified Apr 07, 2016 11:49 AM
A new paper from the Gurdon lab published in Genome Research shows that sperm DNA carries epigenetic marks that influence gene transcription in the embryo
31.03.16 Sperm is epigenetically programmed to regulate embryonic genes

Excerpt from Fig. 6 from the paper

Sperm is epigenetically programmed to regulate gene transcription in embryos 

Marta Teperek, Angela Simeone, Vincent Gaggioli, Kei Miyamoto, George Allen, Serap Erkek, Antoine Peters, Taejoon Kwon, Edward Marcotte, Philip Zegerman, Charles Bradshaw, John Gurdon and Jerome Jullien (2016) Genome Research (Published online March 31, 2016)



Abstract from the paper:

For a long time it has been assumed that the only role of sperm at fertilization is to introduce the male genome into the egg. Recently, ideas have emerged that the epigenetic state of the sperm nucleus could influence transcription in the embryo. However, conflicting reports have challenged the existence of epigenetic marks on sperm genes, and there are no functional tests supporting the role of sperm epigenetic marking on embryonic gene expression. Here we show that sperm is epigenetically programmed to regulate embryonic gene expression.

By comparing the development of sperm- and spermatid-derived frog embryos we show that the programming of sperm for successful development relates to its ability to regulate transcription of a set of developmentally important genes. During spermatid maturation into sperm, these genes lose H3K4me2/3 and retain H3K27me3 marks.

Experimental removal of these epigenetic marks at fertilization deregulates gene expression in the resulting embryos in a paternal chromatin dependent manner. This demonstrates that epigenetic instructions delivered by the sperm at fertilization are required for correct regulation of gene expression in the future embryos. The epigenetic mechanisms of developmental programming revealed here are likely to relate to the mechanisms involved in transgenerational transmission of acquired traits.

Understanding how parental experience can influence development of the progeny has broad potential for improving human health.



Reproduced under Creative Commons License (CC BY 4.0).

Studying development to understand disease

The Gurdon Institute is funded by the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK to study the biology of development, and how normal growth and maintenance go wrong in cancer and other diseases.