LTR retrotransposons transcribed in oocytes drive species-specific and heritable changes in DNA methylation

Nat Commun. 2018 Aug 20;9(1):3331. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05841-x.


De novo DNA methylation (DNAme) during mouse oogenesis occurs within transcribed regions enriched for H3K36me3. As many oocyte transcripts originate in long terminal repeats (LTRs), which are heterogeneous even between closely related mammals, we examined whether species-specific LTR-initiated transcription units (LITs) shape the oocyte methylome. Here we identify thousands of syntenic regions in mouse, rat, and human that show divergent DNAme associated with private LITs, many of which initiate in lineage-specific LTR retrotransposons. Furthermore, CpG island (CGI) promoters methylated in mouse and/or rat, but not human oocytes, are embedded within rodent-specific LITs and vice versa. Notably, at a subset of such CGI promoters, DNAme persists on the maternal genome in fertilized and parthenogenetic mouse blastocysts or in human placenta, indicative of species-specific epigenetic inheritance. Polymorphic LITs are also responsible for disparate DNAme at promoter CGIs in distantly related mouse strains, revealing that LITs also promote intra-species divergence in CGI DNAme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • DNA, Intergenic / genetics
  • Fertilization / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics*
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Oocytes / metabolism*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Retroelements / genetics*
  • Species Specificity
  • Synteny / genetics
  • Terminal Repeat Sequences / genetics*
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • DNA, Intergenic
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Retroelements