Epigenetic inheritance of cell fates during embryonic development.
ABSTRACT: During embryonic development a large number of widely differing and specialized cell types with identical genomes are generated from a single totipotent zygote. Tissue specific transcription factors cooperate with epigenetic modifiers to establish cellular identity in differentiated cells and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms contribute to the maintenance of distinct chromatin states and cell-type specific gene expression patterns, a phenomenon referred to as epigenetic memory. This is accomplished via the stable maintenance of various epigenetic marks through successive rounds of cell division. Preservation of DNA methylation patterns is a well-established mechanism of epigenetic memory, but more recently it has become clear that many other epigenetic modifications can also be maintained following DNA replication and cell division. In this review, we present an overview of the current knowledge regarding the role of histone lysine methylation in the establishment and maintenance of stable epigenetic states.
Project description:After fertilization, the sperm and oocyte genomes undergo extensive epigenetic reprogramming to form a totipotent zygote. The dynamic epigenetic changes during early embryo development primarily involve DNA methylation and demethylation. We have previously identified Gse (gonad-specific expression gene) to be expressed specifically in germ cells and early embryos. Its encoded protein GSE is predominantly localized in the nuclei of cells from the zygote to blastocyst stages, suggesting possible roles in the epigenetic changes occurring during early embryo development. Here, we report the involvement of GSE in epigenetic reprogramming of the paternal genome during mouse zygote development. Preferential binding of GSE to the paternal chromatin was observed from pronuclear stage 2 (PN2) onward. A knockdown of GSE by antisense RNA in oocytes produced no apparent effect on the first and second cell cycles in preimplantation embryos, but caused a significant reduction in the loss of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) and the accumulation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) in the paternal pronucleus. Furthermore, DNA methylation levels in CpG sites of LINE1 transposable elements, Lemd1, Nanog and the upstream regulatory region of the Oct4 (also known as Pou5f1) gene were clearly increased in GSE-knockdown zygotes at mid-pronuclear stages (PN3-4), but the imprinted H19-differential methylated region was not affected. Importantly, DNA immunoprecipitation of 5mC and 5hmC also indicates that knockdown of GSE in zygotes resulted in a significant reduction of the conversion of 5mC to 5hmC on LINE1. Therefore, our results suggest an important role of maternal GSE for mediating active DNA demethylation in the zygote.
Project description:The heritability of chromatin states through cell division is a potential contributor to the epigenetic maintenance of cellular memory of prior states. The macroH2A histone variant has properties of a regulator of epigenetic cell memory, including roles controlling gene silencing and cell differentiation. Its mechanisms of regional genomic targeting and maintenance through cell division are unknown. Here, we combined in vivo imaging with biochemical and genomic approaches to show that human macroH2A is incorporated into chromatin in the G1 phase of the cell cycle following DNA replication. The newly incorporated macroH2A retargets the same large heterochromatic domains where macroH2A was already enriched in the previous cell cycle. It remains heterotypic, targeting individual nucleosomes that do not already contain a macroH2A molecule. The pattern observed resembles that of a new deposition of centromeric histone variants during the cell cycle, indicating mechanistic similarities for macrodomain-scale regulation of epigenetic properties of the cell.
Project description:DNA methylomes are extensively reprogrammed during mouse pre-implantation and early germ cell development. The main feature of this reprogramming is a genome-wide decrease in 5-methylcytosine (5mC). Standard high-resolution single-stranded bisulfite sequencing techniques do not allow discrimination of the underlying passive (replication-dependent) or active enzymatic mechanisms of 5mC loss. We approached this problem by generating high-resolution deep hairpin bisulfite sequencing (DHBS) maps, allowing us to follow the patterns of symmetric DNA methylation at CpGs dyads on both DNA strands over single replications.We compared DHBS maps of repetitive elements in the developing zygote, the early embryo, and primordial germ cells (PGCs) at defined stages of development. In the zygote, we observed distinct effects in paternal and maternal chromosomes. A significant loss of paternal DNA methylation was linked to replication and to an increase in continuous and dispersed hemimethylated CpG dyad patterns. Overall methylation levels at maternal copies remained largely unchanged, but showed an increased level of dispersed hemi-methylated CpG dyads. After the first cell cycle, the combined DHBS patterns of paternal and maternal chromosomes remained unchanged over the next three cell divisions. By contrast, in PGCs the DNA demethylation process was continuous, as seen by a consistent decrease in fully methylated CpG dyads over consecutive cell divisions.The main driver of DNA demethylation in germ cells and in the zygote is partial impairment of maintenance of symmetric DNA methylation at CpG dyads. In the embryo, this passive demethylation is restricted to the first cell division, whereas it continues over several cell divisions in germ cells. The dispersed patterns of CpG dyads in the early-cleavage embryo suggest a continuous partial (and to a low extent active) loss of methylation apparently compensated for by selective de novo methylation. We conclude that a combination of passive and active demethylation events counteracted by de novo methylation are involved in the distinct reprogramming dynamics of DNA methylomes in the zygote, the early embryo, and PGCs.
Project description:Generation of widely differing and specialized cell types from a single totipotent zygote involves large-scale transcriptional changes and chromatin reorganization. Pioneer transcription factors play key roles in programming the epigenome and facilitating recruitment of additional regulatory factors during successive cell lineage specification and differentiation steps. Here we show that Isl1 acts as a pioneer factor driving cardiomyocyte lineage commitment by shaping the chromatin landscape of cardiac progenitor cells. Using an Isl1 hypomorphic mouse line which shows congenital heart defects, genome-wide profiling of Isl1 binding together with RNA- and ATAC-sequencing of cardiac progenitor cells and their derivatives, we uncover a regulatory network downstream of Isl1 that orchestrates cardiogenesis. Mechanistically, we show that Isl1 binds to compacted chromatin and works in concert with the Brg1-Baf60c-based SWI/SNF complex to promote permissive cardiac lineage-specific alterations in the chromatin landscape not only of genes with critical functions in cardiac progenitor cells, but also of cardiomyocyte structural genes that are highly expressed when Isl1 itself is no longer present. Thus, the Isl1/Brg1-Baf60c complex plays a crucial role in orchestrating proper cardiogenesis and in establishing epigenetic memory of cardiomyocyte fate commitment.
Project description:Epigenetic inheritance, the transmission of gene expression states from parent to daughter cells, often involves methylation of DNA. In eukaryotes, cytosine methylation is a frequent component of epigenetic mechanisms. Failure to transmit faithfully a methylated or an unmethylated state of cytosine can lead to altered phenotypes in plants and animals. A central unresolved question in epigenetics concerns the mechanisms by which a locus maintains, or changes, its state of cytosine methylation. We developed "hairpin-bisulfite PCR" to analyze these mechanisms. This method reveals the extent of methylation symmetry between the complementary strands of individual DNA molecules. Using hairpin-bisulfite PCR, we determined the fidelity of methylation transmission in the CpG island of the FMR1 gene in human lymphocytes. For the hypermethylated CpG island of this gene, characteristic of inactive-X alleles, we estimate a maintenance methylation efficiency of approximately 0.96 per site per cell division. For de novo methylation efficiency (E(d)), remarkably different estimates were obtained for the hypermethylated CpG island (E(d) = 0.17), compared with the hypomethylated island on the active-X chromosome (E(d) < 0.01). These results clarify the mechanisms by which the alternative hypomethylated and hypermethylated states of CpG islands are stably maintained through many cell divisions. We also analyzed a region of human L1 transposable elements. These L1 data provide accurate methylation patterns for the complementary strand of each repeat sequence analyzed. Hairpin-bisulfite PCR will be a powerful tool in studying other processes for which genetic or epigenetic information differs on the two complementary strands of DNA.
Project description:Gametes are highly specialized cells that can give rise to the next generation through their ability to generate a totipotent zygote. In mice, germ cells are first specified in the developing embryo around embryonic day (E) 6.25 as primordial germ cells (PGCs). Following subsequent migration into the developing gonad, PGCs undergo a wave of extensive epigenetic reprogramming around E10.5-E11.5, including genome-wide loss of 5-methylcytosine. The underlying molecular mechanisms of this process have remained unclear, leading to our inability to recapitulate this step of germline development in vitro. Here we show, using an integrative approach, that this complex reprogramming process involves coordinated interplay among promoter sequence characteristics, DNA (de)methylation, the polycomb (PRC1) complex and both DNA demethylation-dependent and -independent functions of TET1 to enable the activation of a critical set of germline reprogramming-responsive genes involved in gamete generation and meiosis. Our results also reveal an unexpected role for TET1 in maintaining but not driving DNA demethylation in gonadal PGCs. Collectively, our work uncovers a fundamental biological role for gonadal germline reprogramming and identifies the epigenetic principles of the PGC-to-gonocyte transition that will help to guide attempts to recapitulate complete gametogenesis in vitro.
Project description:The methylation of lysine 4 of Histone H3 (H3K4me) is an important component of epigenetic regulation. H3K4 methylation is a consequence of transcriptional activity, but also has been shown to contribute to "epigenetic memory"; i.e., it can provide a heritable landmark of previous transcriptional activity that may help promote or maintain such activity in subsequent cell descendants or lineages. A number of multi-protein complexes that control the addition of H3K4me have been described in several organisms. These Set1/MLL or COMPASS complexes often share a common subset of conserved proteins, with other components potentially contributing to tissue-specific or developmental regulation of the methyltransferase activity. Here we show that the normal maintenance of H3K4 di- and tri-methylation in the germ line of Caenorhabditis elegans is dependent on homologs of the Set1/MLL complex components WDR-5.1 and RBBP-5. Different methylation states that are each dependent on wdr-5.1 and rbbp-5 require different methyltransferases. In addition, different subsets of conserved Set1/MLL-like complex components appear to be required for H3K4 methylation in germ cells and somatic lineages at different developmental stages. In adult germ cells, mutations in wdr-5.1 or rbbp-5 dramatically affect both germ line stem cell (GSC) population size and proper germ cell development. RNAi knockdown of RNA Polymerase II does not significantly affect the wdr-5.1-dependent maintenance of H3K4 methylation in either early embryos or adult GSCs, suggesting that the mechanism is not obligately coupled to transcription in these cells. A separate, wdr-5.1-independent mode of H3K4 methylation correlates more directly with transcription in the adult germ line and in embryos. Our results indicate that H3K4 methylation in the germline is regulated by a combination of Set1/MLL component-dependent and -independent modes of epigenetic establishment and maintenance.
Project description:It is thought that most cell types of the human body share the same genetic information as that contained in the zygote from which they originate. Consistent with this view, animal cloning studies demonstrated that the intact genome of a differentiated cell can be reprogrammed to support the development of an entire organism and allow the production of pluripotent stem cells. Recent progress in reprogramming research now points to an important role for transcription factors in the establishment and the maintenance of cellular phenotypes, and to cell division as a mediator of transitions between different states of gene expression.
Project description:Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are part of a conserved cell memory system that conveys epigenetic inheritance of silenced transcriptional states through cell division. Despite the considerable amount of information about PcG mechanisms controlling gene silencing, how PcG proteins maintain repressive chromatin during epigenome duplication is still unclear. Here we identified a specific time window, the early S phase, in which PcG proteins are recruited at BX-C PRE target sites in concomitance with H3K27me3 repressive mark deposition. Notably, these events precede and are uncoupled from PRE replication timing, which occurs in late S phase when most epigenetic signatures are reduced. These findings shed light on one of the key mechanisms for PcG-mediated epigenetic inheritance during S phase, suggesting a conserved model in which the PcG-dependent H3K27me3 mark is inherited by dilution and not by de novo methylation occurring at the time of replication.
Project description:Sexual reproduction culminates in a totipotent zygote with the potential to produce a whole organism. Sperm chromatin reorganization and epigenetic reprogramming that alter DNA and histone modifications generate a totipotent embryo. Active DNA demethylation of the paternal genome has been proposed to involve base excision and DNA repair-based mechanisms. The nature and consequence of DNA lesions generated during reprogramming are not known. Using mouse genetics and chemical biology, we discovered that Tet3-dependent zygotic reprogramming generates paternal DNA lesions that are monitored by a surveillance mechanism. In vivo structure-function rescue assays revealed that cohesin-dependent repair of paternal DNA lesions prevents activation of a Chk1-dependent checkpoint that delays mitotic entry. Culturing conditions affect checkpoint stringency, which has implications for human in vitro fertilization. We propose the zygotic checkpoint senses DNA lesions generated during paternal DNA demethylation and ensures reprogrammed loci are repaired before mitosis to prevent chromosome fragmentation, embryo loss, and infertility.