Genomic imprinting, an epigenetic form of gene regulation, determines the parent-dependent gene expression of marked or imprinted genes during gametogenesis and embryonic development. Imprinting involves differential allele DNA methylation in one sex cell lineage but not in the other. Egg and sperm each contributes the same DNA sequences to the zygote but epigenetic imprinting of a subset of genes determines that only one of the parent alleles are expressed relative to the parental origin. Primordial germ cells inherit biallelically imprinted genes from maternal and paternal origin and erase their imprints to start de novo monoallelic imprinting during gametogenesis. Epigenetic paternalization is an ongoing process in the mitotically-dividing spermatogonial stem cell and derived meiotically-dividing spermatocyte progeny to endow sperm with imprinted alleles. Epigenetic maternalization is restricted to the oocyte growth phase of folliculogenesis and is unrelated to DNA replication since it takes place while the oocyte remains in the diplotene stage of meiotic prophase I. Sperm and oocyte genomic methylation patterns depend on the activity of DNA methyltransferases (Dnmt). A variant of Dnmt1, designated Dnmt1o, accumulates in oocyte nuclei during the follicular growth phase. Dnmt3L, an isoform of Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b, but lacking enzymatic activity, interacts with Dnmt2a and Dnmt3b and is required for spermatogenesis. In the mouse early zygote, the male pronucleus is demethylated within 4 h of fertilization. Global demethylation takes place gradually up to the morula stage. In the blastocyst, de novo methylation is reestablished in the inner cell mass but not in the trophectoderm. Both the significance of genomic imprinting and the severe developmental defects caused by disrupted Dnmt activity, point to a need for a better understanding of the causes of low cloning efficiency by somatic nuclear transfer to enucleated ovulated oocyte.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.