Transient DNMT1 suppression reveals hidden heritable marks in the genome

Nucleic Acids Res. 2015 Feb 18;43(3):1485-97. doi: 10.1093/nar/gku1386. Epub 2015 Jan 10.


Genome-wide demethylation and remethylation of DNA during early embryogenesis is essential for development. Imprinted germline differentially methylated domains (gDMDs) established by sex-specific methylation in either male or female germ cells, must escape these dynamic changes and sustain precise inheritance of both methylated and unmethylated parental alleles. To identify other, gDMD-like sequences with the same epigenetic inheritance properties, we used a modified embryonic stem (ES) cell line that emulates the early embryonic demethylation and remethylation waves. Transient DNMT1 suppression revealed gDMD-like sequences requiring continuous DNMT1 activity to sustain a highly methylated state. Remethylation of these sequences was also compromised in vivo in a mouse model of transient DNMT1 loss in the preimplantation embryo. These novel regions, possessing heritable epigenetic features similar to imprinted-gDMDs are required for normal physiological and developmental processes and when disrupted are associated with disorders such as cancer and autism spectrum disorders. This study presents new perspectives on DNA methylation heritability during early embryo development that extend beyond conventional imprinted-gDMDs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans


  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNMT1 protein, human
  • Dnmt1 protein, mouse