Findings from recent studies have suggested that the low survival rate of animals derived via somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) may be in part due to epigenetic abnormalities brought about by this procedure. DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification of DNA that is implicated in the regulation of imprinted genes. Genes subject to genomic imprinting are expressed monoallelically in a parent of origin-dependent manner and are important for embryo growth, placental function, and neurobehavioral processes. The vast majority of imprinted genes have been studied in mice and humans. Herein, our objectives were to characterize the bovine SNRPN gene in gametes and to compare its methylation profile in in vivo-produced, in vitro-produced, and SCNT-derived Day 17 elongating embryos. A CpG island within the 5′ region of SNRPN was identified and examined using bisulfite sequencing. SNRPN alleles were unmethylated in sperm, methylated in oocytes, and approximately 50% methylated in somatic samples. The examined SNRPN region appeared for the most part to be normally methylated in three in vivo-produced Day 17 embryos and in eight in vitro-produced Day 17 embryos examined, while alleles from Day 17 SCNT embryos were severely hypomethylated in seven of eight embryos. In this study, we showed that the SNRPN methylation profiles previously observed in mouse and human studies are also conserved in cattle. Moreover, SCNT-derived Day 17 elongating embryos were abnormally hypomethylated compared with in vivo-produced and in vitro-produced embryos, which in turn suggests that SCNT may lead to faulty reprogramming or maintenance of methylation imprints at this locus.
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