Journal Article

Methylation imprints of the imprint control region of the <i>SNRPN</i>-gene in human gametes and preimplantation embryos

Elke Geuns, Martine De Rycke, André Van Steirteghem and Inge Liebaers

in Human Molecular Genetics

Volume 12, issue 22, pages 2873-2879
Published in print November 2003 | ISSN: 0964-6906
Published online November 2003 | e-ISSN: 1460-2083 | DOI:
Methylation imprints of the imprint control region of the SNRPN-gene in human gametes and preimplantation embryos

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Imprinting is an epigenetic mechanism leading to mono-allelic expression of imprinted genes. In order to inherit the differential epigenetic imprints from one generation to the next, these imprints have to be erased in the primordial germ cells and re-established in a sex-specific manner during gametogenesis. The exact timing of the imprint resetting is not yet known and the use of immature gametes in assisted reproductive technologies may therefore lead to abnormal imprinting and related diseases. Imprinting is associated with differential allelic methylation in a CpG-context. We studied the methylation patterns of the imprint control (IC) region of the human SNRPN-gene in human spermatozoa, oocytes in different developmental stages [germinal vesicle (GV), metaphase I and metaphase II oocytes] and in preimplantation embryos using the bisulphite sequencing technique. In the spermatozoa, almost all potential methylation sites were unmethylated whereas mainly methylated patterns were found in the oocytes at different developmental stages. In the embryos, an average methylation pattern of 53% was found indicating that the imprints, which have been set during gametogenesis, are stably maintained in the preimplantation embryo. Our results indicate that the maternal imprints for the IC-region of the human SNRPN-gene are already re-established at the GV stage and that they are not re-established in a late oocyte stage or after fertilization as previously reported. Recent advances in assisted reproductive technologies raise questions concerning safety and the epigenetic risks involved. Our study was the first to check the methylation imprints in human pre-implantation embryos and oocytes at different developmental stages.

Journal Article.  5328 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Genetics and Genomics

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