A subset of genes, known as imprinted genes, is present in the mammalian genome. Genomic imprinting governs the monoallelic expression of these genes, depending on whether the gene was inherited from the sperm or the egg. This parent-of-origin specific gene expression is generally dependent on the epigenetic modification, DNA methylation, and the DNA methylation status of CpG dinucleotides residing in loci known as differentially methylated regions (DMRs). The enzymatic machinery responsible for the addition of methyl (-CH3) groups to the cytosine residue in the CpG dinucleotides are known as DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs). Correct establishment and maintenance of methylation patterns at imprinted genes has been associated with placental function and regulation of embryonic/fetal development. Much work has been carried out on imprinted genes in mouse and human; however, little is known about the methylation dynamics in the bovine oocyte. The primary objective of the present study was to characterize the establishment of methylation at maternally imprinted genes in bovine growing oocytes and to determine if the expression of the bovine DNMTs—DNMT3A, DNMT3B, and DNMT3L—was coordinated with DNA methylation during oocyte development. To this end, a panel of maternally imprinted genes was selected (SNRPN, MEST, IGF2R, PEG10, and PLAGL1) and putative DMRs for MEST, IGF2R, PEG10, and PLAGL1 were identified within the 5′ regions for each gene; the SNRPN DMR has been reported previously. Conventional bisulfite sequencing revealed that methylation marks were acquired at all five DMRs investigated in an oocyte size-dependent fashion. This was confirmed for a selection of genes using pyrosequencing analysis. Furthermore, mRNA expression and protein analysis revealed that DNMT3A, DNMT3B, and DNMT3L are also present in the bovine oocyte during its growth phase. This study demonstrates for the first time that an increase in bovine imprinted gene DMR methylation occurs during oocyte growth, as is observed in mouse.
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Vol. 86 • No. 3