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Germ line–inherited H3K27me3 restricts enhancer function during maternal-to-zygotic transition

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Science  14 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6347, pp. 212-216
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5339

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Intergenerational transcription taming

Parents provide genetic information that guides the development of the offspring. Zenk et al. show that epigenetic information, in the form of the repressive mark H3K27me3, is also propagated to the offspring and regulates proper gene expression in the embryo. Preventing the propagation of maternally inherited H3K27me3 led to precocious gene activation and, ultimately, embryo lethality.

Science, this issue p. 212

Abstract

Gametes carry parental genetic material to the next generation. Stress-induced epigenetic changes in the germ line can be inherited and can have a profound impact on offspring development. However, the molecular mechanisms and consequences of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance are poorly understood. We found that Drosophila oocytes transmit the repressive histone mark H3K27me3 to their offspring. Maternal contribution of the histone methyltransferase Enhancer of zeste, the enzymatic component of Polycomb repressive complex 2, is required for active propagation of H3K27me3 during early embryogenesis. H3K27me3 in the early embryo prevents aberrant accumulation of the active histone mark H3K27ac at regulatory regions and precocious activation of lineage-specific genes at zygotic genome activation. Disruption of the germ line–inherited Polycomb epigenetic memory causes embryonic lethality that cannot be rescued by late zygotic reestablishment of H3K27me3. Thus, maternally inherited H3K27me3, propagated in the early embryo, regulates the activation of enhancers and lineage-specific genes during development.

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