Dynamic chromatin modifications characterise the first cell cycle in mouse embryos

Dev Biol. 2005 Apr 1;280(1):225-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2005.01.025.


On fertilisation, gametes undergo epigenetic reorganisation and re-establish totipotency. Here, we investigate links between chromatin remodelling and asymmetric maintenance of DNA methylation in the early mouse embryo. Using antibodies for lysine specific H3 methylation reveals that the male pronucleus is negative for di- and trimethyl H3-K9 yet the female is positive for these residues. However, the male is positive for monomethyl H3-K9 and H3-K27 and these signals increase during pronuclear maturation. Non-histone chromatin proteins of the Polycomb group are found in the paternal compartment as early as sperm decondensation. However, trimethyl H3-K27 is not observed in the male until the completion of DNA replication. Heterochromatin protein 1 beta (HP1beta) is abundant in the male pronucleus, despite the absence of di- and trimethyl H3-K9, and co-localises with monomethyl H3-K9. Recent evidence identifies monomethyl H3-K9 as the preferred substrate of Suvar39h, the histone methyl transferase (HMT) responsible for heterochromatic H3-K9 trimethylation. The association of HP1beta with monomethyl H3-K9 may assist in preventing further modification of H3-K9. Association of dimethylation but not trimethylation of H3-K9 with DNA methylation, in the female pronucleus, suggests a mechanistically significant link. These differences begin to provide a chromatin based explanation for paternal-specific active DNA demethylation and maternal specific protection in the mouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle / physiology*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / physiology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Fertilization*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred CBA


  • Chromatin