In mammals, epigenetic modifications are globally rearranged after fertilization, when gametes fuse to form the embryo. While gametes carry special epigenetic signatures and a unique nuclear organization, they attain embryo-specific patterns after fertilization. This "reprogramming" is promoted by intimate contact between the parental inherited genomes and the oocyte cytoplasm over the first cell cycles of development. Although the mechanisms of this reprogramming remain poorly understood, it appears that the particular epigenetic landscape established after fertilization is essential for further development. This review looks at histone post-translational modifications, focusing on their functions in chromatin organization and their role in nuclear architecture during mouse embryonic development. Epigenetic changes linked to the use of assisted reproductive technologies are also considered.
© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.