DNA methylation is an essential epigenetic mark crucial for normal mammalian development. This modification controls the expression of a unique class of genes, designated as imprinted, which are expressed monoallelically and in a parent-of-origin-specific manner. Proper parental allele-specific DNA methylation at imprinting control regions (ICRs) is necessary for appropriate imprinting. Processes that deregulate DNA methylation of imprinted loci cause disease in humans. DNAmethylation patterns dramatically change duringmammalian development: first, the majority of the genome, with the exception of ICRs, is demethylated after fertilization, and subsequently undergoes genome-wide de novo DNA methylation. Secondly, after primordial germ cells are specified in the embryo, another wave of demethylation occurs, with ICR demethylation occurring late in the process. Lastly, ICRs reacquire DNA methylation imprints in developing germ cells. We describe the past discoveries and current literature defining these crucial dynamics in relation to imprinted genes and the rest of the genome.
This review summarizes the changes in DNA methylation at imprinting control regions, which regulate monoallelic imprinted gene expression, from fertilization, embryogenesis, and PGC development, which are essential for proper development.