The H19/Igf2 imprinting control region (ICR) is a DNA methylation-dependent chromatin insulator in somatic cells. The hypomethylated maternally inherited ICR binds the insulator protein CTCF at four sites, and blocks activity of the proximal Igf2 promoter by insulating it from the shared distal enhancers. The hypermethylated paternally inherited ICR lacks CTCF binding and insulator activity, but induces methylation-silencing of the paternal H19 promoter. The paternal-specific methylation of the ICR is established in the male germ cells, while the ICR emerges from the female germ line in an unmethylated form. Despite several attempts to find cis-regulatory elements, it is still unknown what determines these male and female germ cell-specific epigenetic modifications. We recently proposed that five in vivo footprints spanning fifteen half nuclear hormone receptor (NHR) binding sites within the ICR might be involved, and here we report on the effects of mutagenizing all of these half sites in mice. No effect was obtained--in the female and male germ lines the mutant ICR remained hypomethylated and hypermethylated, respectively. The ICR imprinting mechanism remains undefined.
2006 S. Karger AG, Basel.