Normal development depends on the precise sequence of changes in the configuration of chromatin; these are primarily related to specific biochemical modifications such as acetylation or methylation of histones and DNA methylation. While the role of DNA methylation during preimplantation development has been studied extensively, little is known about histone modifications related to early embryonic development. Here, we investigated gene-specific histone modifications in in vitro produced bovine blastocysts. Selected genes thought to be critical for bovine preimplantation development were examined and included POU5F1 (OCT4), NANOG, INFT, GAPDH, SLC2A3 and IGF1. We used chromatin immunoprecipitation from pools of bovine blastocysts to unravel several modifications of histone H3 in relation to mRNA expression profiles. We focused on the two cell compartments of the blastocyst, the inner cell mass (ICM) and the trophectoderm (TE). We show that gene expression patterns in the ICM and TE of the bovine blastocyst are consistent with histone modification patterns on the promoter of the corresponding genes. The data show a complex epigenetic pattern of promoter occupancy by transcriptionally permissive and repressive H3 modifications. These results pave the way to in-depth epigenetic studies of preimplantation embryos that are crucial to gain a better understanding of the epigenetic changes frequently observed after use of assisted reproductive technologies.
Keywords: bovine blastocyst; chromatin immunoprecipitation; epigenetics; histone modifications; inner cell mass; mRNA expression; trophectoderm.