Antoine H.F.M. Peters

Epigenetic control of mouse germ cell and early embryonic development

Through the modulation of chromatin states, epigenetic mechanisms contribute to the reading of genetic information. Classically, epigenetic regulators are known to play conserved roles in the heritability of cell identity during somatic differentiation and in genome stability. More recent studies have shown that certain epigenetic modifiers also regulate the maintenance of differentiation potential and self-renewal capacity in stem cells.

Remarkably little is known about the epigenetic mechanisms regulating the acquisition of totipotency and subsequent lineage specification during early mammalian development. In mammals, fusion of an oocyte and a spermatozoon, two differentiated and transcriptionally silent germ cells, leads to the formation of the totipotent embryo. Based on nuclear transfer experiments, we and others suggested that epigenetic reprogramming occurring during gametogenesis facilitates re-acquisition of totipotency in early embryos. This hypothesis argues for a transgenerational epigenetic contribution towards early development.

Our research aims at obtaining a molecular understanding of the role of distinct epigenetic pathways in the control of gene regulation and lineage specification in pre-implantation embryos. We further investigate the functional significance of transmission of histone modifications for gene activity or repression in the subsequent generation.

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Antoine H.F.M. Peters
Cornelia Albrecht
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