Wood MD, Hiura H, Tunster S, Arima T, Shin J-H, Higgins M, John1 RM
Parent-of-origin specific expression of imprinted genes relies on the differential DNA methylation of specific genomic regions. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) acquire DNA methylation either during gametogenesis (primary DMR) or after fertilization when allele-specific expression is established (secondary DMR). Little is known about the function of these secondary DMRs. We investigated the DMR spanning Cdkn1c in mouse embryonic stem cells, androgenetic stem cells and embryonic germ stem cells. In all cases, expression of Cdkn1c was appropriately repressed in in vitro differentiated cells. However, stem cells failed to de novo methylate the silenced gene even after sustained differentiation. In the absence of maintained DNA methylation (Dnmt1-/-), Cdkn1c escapes silencing demonstrating the requirement for DNA methylation in long term silencing in vivo. We propose that post-fertilization differential methylation reflects the importance of retaining single gene dosage of a subset of imprinted loci in the adult.