Dynamics in the expression of epigenetic modifiers and histone modifications in perinatal rat germ cells during de novo DNA methylation

Arlette Rwigemera, Rhizlane El Omri-Charai, Laetitia L Lecante, Geraldine Delbes* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Epigenetic reprogramming during perinatal germ cell development is essential for genomic imprinting and cell differentiation; however, the actors of this key event and their dynamics are poorly understood in rats. Our study aimed to characterize the expression patterns of epigenetic modifiers and the changes in histone modifications in rat gonocytes at the time of de novo DNA methylation. Using transgenic rats expressing Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) specifically in germ cells, we purified male gonocytes by fluorescent activated cell sorting at various stages of perinatal development and established the transcriptomic profile of 165 epigenetic regulators. Using immunofluorescence on gonad sections, we tracked six histone modifications in rat male and female perinatal germ cells over time, including methylation of histone H3 on lysines 27, 9, and 4; ubiquitination of histone H2A on lysine119; and acetylation of histone H2B on lysine 20. The results revealed the dynamics in the expression of ten-eleven translocation enzymes and DNA methyltransferases in male gonocytes at the time of de novo DNA methylation. Moreover, our transcriptomic data indicate a decrease in histone ubiquitination and methylation coinciding with the beginning of de novo DNA methylation. Decreases in H2AK119Ub and H3K27me3 were further confirmed by immunofluorescence in the male germ cells but were not consistent for all H3 methylation sites examined. Together, our data highlighted transient chromatin remodeling involving histone modifications during de novo DNA methylation. Further studies addressing how these dynamic changes in histone posttranslational modifications could guide de novo DNA methylation will help explain the complex establishment of the male germ cell epigenome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-373
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note


We gratefully thank Professor Affar El Bachir (Université de Montreal) for his gift of the H2AK119Ub antibody, Guylaine Lassonde (INRS) for her technical help with cell sorting, and Professor Jacquetta Trasler (McGill University) for her critical review of the manuscript.

Grant support: This work was supported by a Discovery grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC #04607–2014). A.R. received scholarships from the Fondation Armand-Frappier and the Quebec Research Fund for Health (FRQS). R.E.o.-C. received a scholarship from the Quebec Network in Reproduction funded by the Quebec Research Fund for New Technology (FRQNT). G.D. is the recipient of a FRQS career award.


  • DNA methylation
  • epigenetic modifiers
  • gonocytes
  • histone posttranslational modifications
  • perinatal life
  • rat


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