Research Article

Resetting histone modifications during human parental-to-zygotic transition

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Science  26 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6451, pp. 353-360
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw5118

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Epigenetics of human embryonic development

Substantial epigenetic reprogramming occurs in mammalian early development. Xia et al. investigated the reprogramming dynamics of three key histone modifications in human early embryonic development. The reprogramming in humans is highly species-specific and different than that in mice. A globally permissive chromatin state connects parental and zygotic epigenomes during maternal-to-zygotic transition. Inner-cell mass-specific, but not trophectoderm-specific, genes are asymmetrically patterned by a histone mark during early lineage segregation.

Science, this issue p. 353


Histone modifications regulate gene expression and development. To address how they are reprogrammed in human early development, we investigated key histone marks in human oocytes and early embryos. Unlike that in mouse oocytes, the permissive mark trimethylated histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3) largely exhibits canonical patterns at promoters in human oocytes. After fertilization, prezygotic genome activation (pre-ZGA) embryos acquire permissive chromatin and widespread H3K4me3 in CpG-rich regulatory regions. By contrast, the repressive mark H3K27me3 undergoes global depletion. CpG-rich regulatory regions then resolve to either active or repressed states upon ZGA, followed by subsequent restoration of H3K27me3 at developmental genes. Finally, by combining chromatin and transcriptome maps, we revealed transcription circuitry and asymmetric H3K27me3 patterning during early lineage specification. Collectively, our data unveil a priming phase connecting human parental-to-zygotic epigenetic transition.

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