Until now, no primate animals have been successfully cloned to birth with somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) procedures, and little is known about the molecular events that occurred in the reconstructed embryos during preimplantation development. In many SCNT cases, epigenetic reprogramming of the donor nuclei after transfer into enucleated oocytes was hypothesized to be crucial to the reestablishment of embryonic totipotency. In the present study, we focused on two major epigenetic marks, DNA methylation and histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9) acetylation, which we examined by indirect immunofluorescence and confocal laser scanning microscopy. During preimplantation development, 67% of two-cell- and 50% of eight-cell-cloned embryos showed higher DNA methylation levels than their in vitro fertilization (IVF) counterparts, which undergo gradual demethylation until the early morula stage. Moreover, whereas an asymmetric distribution of DNA methylation was established in an IVF blastocysts with a lower methylation level in the inner cell mass (ICM) than in the trophectoderm, in most cloned blastocysts, ICM cells maintained a high degree of methylation. Finally, two donor cell lines (S11 and S1–04) that showed a higher level of H3K9 acetylation supported more blastocyst formation after nuclear transfer than the other cell line (S1–03), with a relatively low level of acetylation staining. In conclusion, we propose that abnormal DNA methylation patterns contribute to the poor quality of cloned preimplantation embryos and may be one of the obstacles to successful cloning in primates.
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Vol. 76 • No. 1