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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

DNA methylation patterns in tissues from mid-gestation bovine foetuses produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer show subtle abnormalities in nuclear reprogramming

Christine Couldrey and Rita SF Lee*

Author Affiliations

AgResearch, Reproductive Technologies Group, Ruakura Research Centre, East Street, Private Bag 3123, Hamilton, New Zealand

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BMC Developmental Biology 2010, 10:27  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-10-27

Published: 7 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Cloning of cattle by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is associated with a high incidence of pregnancy failure characterized by abnormal placental and foetal development. These abnormalities are thought to be due, in part, to incomplete re-setting of the epigenetic state of DNA in the donor somatic cell nucleus to a state that is capable of driving embryonic and foetal development to completion. Here, we tested the hypothesis that DNA methylation patterns were not appropriately established during nuclear reprogramming following SCNT. A panel of imprinted, non-imprinted genes and satellite repeat sequences was examined in tissues collected from viable and failing mid-gestation SCNT foetuses and compared with similar tissues from gestation-matched normal foetuses generated by artificial insemination (AI).

Results

Most of the genomic regions examined in tissues from viable and failing SCNT foetuses had DNA methylation patterns similar to those in comparable tissues from AI controls. However, statistically significant differences were found between SCNT and AI at specific CpG sites in some regions of the genome, particularly those associated with SNRPN and KCNQ1OT1, which tended to be hypomethylated in SCNT tissues. There was a high degree of variation between individuals in methylation levels at almost every CpG site in these two regions, even in AI controls. In other genomic regions, methylation levels at specific CpG sites were tightly controlled with little variation between individuals. Only one site (HAND1) showed a tissue-specific pattern of DNA methylation. Overall, DNA methylation patterns in tissues of failing foetuses were similar to apparently viable SCNT foetuses, although there were individuals showing extreme deviant patterns.

Conclusion

These results show that SCNT foetuses that had developed to mid-gestation had largely undergone nuclear reprogramming and that the epigenetic signature at this stage was not a good predictor of whether the foetus would develop to term or not.