DNA methylation in mice is influenced by genetics as well as sex and life experience

Nat Commun. 2019 Jan 18;10(1):305. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-08067-z.


DNA methylation is an essential epigenetic process in mammals, intimately involved in gene regulation. Here we address the extent to which genetics, sex, and pregnancy influence genomic DNA methylation by intercrossing 2 inbred mouse strains, C57BL/6N and C3H/HeN, and analyzing DNA methylation in parents and offspring using whole-genome bisulfite sequencing. Differential methylation across genotype is detected at thousands of loci and is preserved on parental alleles in offspring. In comparison of autosomal DNA methylation patterns across sex, hundreds of differentially methylated regions are detected. Comparison of animals with different histories of pregnancy within our study reveals a CpG methylation pattern that is restricted to female animals that had borne offspring. Collectively, our results demonstrate the stability of CpG methylation across generations, clarify the interplay of epigenetics with genetics and sex, and suggest that CpG methylation may serve as an epigenetic record of life events in somatic tissues at loci whose expression is linked to the relevant biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • DNA Methylation / physiology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Animal / genetics*
  • Pregnancy, Animal / physiology
  • Sex Factors
  • Species Specificity
  • Whole Genome Sequencing