The mammalian germline is generally assumed to undergo extensive epigenetic reprogramming during embryonic development, including a nearly complete erasure of DNA methylation. This assumption does, however, to large degree rely on data from mouse, and despite a well-grounded picture the general nature of these data needs to be validated by investigations of other mammalian species. This study represents such a contribution in the examination of the germline in the domestic pig (Sus scrofa). Semiquantitative immunohistochemistry was used to investigate the level of DNA methylation in the POU5F1-positive primordial germ cells (PGCs) compared with neighboring somatic cells in porcine embryos at Embryonic Day 15 (E15), E17, E20, E21, and E28. We show that, in agreement with the mouse model, a significantly lower level of DNA methylation was observed in the early migrating PGCs. This level was decreasing until a stage coinciding with the entrance of the PGCs to the genital ridge. After this, the methylation level increased. Using whole-mount immunostaining, we determined the spatial arrangement of the porcine PGCs in the period between E15 and E28, allowing some comparison with the migration of the murine germline. The overall conclusion from the obtained data is that the DNA methylation changes in porcine PGCs, as well as the migration of these cells, parallels the picture reported for the mouse.
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Vol. 84 • No. 6