Meeting the methodological challenges in molecular mapping of the embryonic epigenome.

  • Publication date : 2013-11-29


McGraw S, Shojaei Saadi HA, Robert C. Meeting the methodological challenges in molecular mapping of the embryonic epigenome. Mol. Hum. Reprod. 2013;19:809-27. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gat046. PubMed PMID: 23783346.

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chromatin assembly and disassembly dna methylation embryo, mammalian embryonic development epigenesis, genetic epigenomics gene expression regulation, developmental humans rna, untranslated


The past decade of life sciences research has been driven by progress in genomics. Many voices are already proclaiming the post-genomics era, in which phenomena other than sequence polymorphism influence gene expression and also explain complex phenotypes. One of these burgeoning fields is the study of the epigenome. Although the mechanisms by which chromatin structure and reorganization as well as cytosine methylation influence gene expression are not fully understood, they are being invoked to explain the now-accepted long-term impact of the environment on gene expression, which appears to be a factor in the development of numerous diseases. Such studies are particularly relevant in early embryonic development, during which waves of epigenetic reprogramming are known to have profound impacts. Since gametes and zygotes are in the process of resetting the genome in order to create embryonic stem cells that will each differentiate to create one of many specific tissue types, this phase of life is now viewed as a window of susceptibility to epigenetic reprogramming errors. Epigenetics could explain the influence of factors such as the nutritional/metabolic status of the mother or the artificial environment of assisted reproductive technologies. However, the peculiar nature of early embryos in addition to their scarcity poses numerous technological challenges that are slowly being overcome. The principal subject of this article is to review the suitability of various current and emerging technological platforms to study oocytes and early embryonic epigenome with more emphasis on studying DNA methylation. Furthermore, the constraint of samples size, inherent to the study of preimplantation embryo development, was put in perspective with the various molecular platforms described.