Hypoxic in vitro culture reduces histone lactylation and impairs pre-implantation embryonic development in mice

Epigenetics Chromatin. 2021 Dec 21;14(1):57. doi: 10.1186/s13072-021-00431-6.


Background: Dynamic changes of histone posttranslational modifications are important contexts of epigenetic reprograming after fertilization in pre-implantation embryos. Recently, lactylation has been reported as a novel epigenetic modification that regulates various cellular processes, but its role during early embryogenesis has not been elucidated.

Results: We examined nuclear accumulation of H3K23la, H3K18la and pan histone lactylation in mouse oocytes and pre-implantation embryos by immunofluorescence with specific antibodies. All of the three modifications were abundant in GV stage oocytes, and both H3K23la and pan histone lactylation could be detected on the condensed chromosomes of the MII oocytes, while H3K18la were not detected. After fertilization, the nuclear staining of H3K23la, H3K18la and pan histone lactylation was faint in zygotes but homogeneously stained both of the parental pronuclei. The signal remained weak in the early cleavage stage embryos and increased remarkably in the blastocyst stage embryos. Comparison of the embryos cultured in four different conditions with varying concentrations of oxygen found that H3K23la, H3K18la and pan histone lactylation showed similar and comparable staining pattern in embryos cultured in atmospheric oxygen concentration (20% O2), gradient oxygen concentration (5% O2 to 2% O2) and embryos obtained from in vivo, but the modifications were greatly reduced in embryos cultured in hypoxic condition (2% O2). In contrast, nuclear accumulation of H3K18ac or H3K23ac was not significantly affected under hypoxic condition. Moreover, the developmental rate of in vitro cultured embryo was significantly reduced by low oxygen concentration and small molecule inhibition of LDHA activity led to decreased lactate production, as well as reduced histone lactylation and compromised developmental rate.

Conclusions: We provided for the first time the dynamic landscape of H3K23la, H3K18la and pan histone lactylation in oocytes and pre-implantation embryos in mice. Our data suggested that histone lactylation is subjected to oxygen concentration in the culture environment and hypoxic in vitro culture reduces histone lactylation, which in turn compromises developmental potential of pre-implantation embryos in mice.

Keywords: Embryonic development; H3K18la; H3K23la; Histone lactylation; Hypoxia; Oxygen; Pre-implantation embryo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blastocyst
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Female
  • Histones*
  • Mice
  • Oocytes
  • Pregnancy
  • Zygote


  • Histones