Methylation of DNA is involved in tissue-specific gene control, and establishment of DNA methylation pattern in the genome is thought to be essential for embryonic development. Three isoforms of Dnmt1 (DNA methyltransferase 1) transcripts, Dnmt1s, Dnmt1o, and Dnmt1p, are produced by alternative usage of multiple first exons. Dnmt1s is expressed in somatic cells. Dnmt1p is found only in pachytene spermatocytes, whereas Dnmt1o is specific to oocytes and preimplantation embryos. Here we determined that there is a tissue-dependent differentially methylated region (T-DMR) in the 5′ region of Dnmt1o but not in that of the Dnmt1s/1p. The methylation status of the Dnmt1o T-DMR was distinctively different in the oocyte from that in the sperm and adult somatic tissues and changed at each stage from fertilization to blastocyst stage, suggesting that active methylation and demethylation occur during preimplantation development. The T-DMR was highly methylated in somatic cells and embryonic stem cells. Analysis using Dnmt-deficient embryonic stem cell lines revealed that Dnmt1, Dnmt3a, and Dnmt3b are each partially responsible for maintenance of methylation of Dnmt1o T-DMR. In particular, there are compensatory and cooperative roles between Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b. Thus, the regulatory region of Dnmt1o, but not of Dnmt1s/1p, appeared to be a target of DNA methylation. The present study also suggested that the DNA methylation status of the gene region dynamically changes during embryogenesis independently of the change in the bulk DNA methylation status.
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