The integrity of chromatin, which provides a dynamic template for all DNA-related processes in eukaryotes, is maintained through replication-dependent and -independent assembly pathways. To address the role of histone deposition in the absence of DNA replication, we deleted the H3.3 chaperone Hira in developing mouse oocytes. We show that chromatin of non-replicative developing oocytes is dynamic and that lack of continuous H3.3/H4 deposition alters chromatin structure, resulting in increased DNase I sensitivity, the accumulation of DNA damage, and a severe fertility phenotype. On the molecular level, abnormal chromatin structure leads to a dramatic decrease in the dynamic range of gene expression, the appearance of spurious transcripts, and inefficient de novo DNA methylation. Our study thus unequivocally shows the importance of continuous histone replacement and chromatin homeostasis for transcriptional regulation and normal developmental progression in a non-replicative system in vivo.
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