Chromatin alterations during the epididymal maturation of mouse sperm refine the paternally inherited epigenome. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Paternal lifestyle choices and male exposure history have a critical influence on the health and fitness of the next generation. Accordingly, defining the processes of germline programming is essential to resolving how the epigenetic memory of paternal experiences transmits to their offspring. Established dogma holds that all facets of chromatin organization and histone posttranslational modification are complete before sperm exits the testes. However, recent clinical and animal studies suggest that patterns of DNA methylation change during epididymal maturation. In this study, we used complementary proteomic and deep-sequencing approaches to test the hypothesis that sperm posttranslational histone modifications change during epididymal transit. RESULTS: Using proteomic analysis to contrast immature spermatozoa and mature sperm isolated from the mouse epididymis, we find progressive changes in multiple histone posttranslational modifications, including H3K4me1, H3K27ac, H3K79me2, H3K64ac, H3K122ac, H4K16ac, H3K9me2, and H4K20me3. Interestingly, some of these changes only occurred on histone variant H3.3, and most involve chromatin modifications associated with gene enhancer activity. In contrast, the bivalent chromatin modifications, H3K4me3, and H3K27me3 remained constant. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with deep sequencing, we find that changes in histone h3, lysine 27 acetylation (H3K27ac) involve sharpening broad diffuse regions into narrow peaks centered on the promoter regions of genes driving embryonic development. Significantly, many of these regions overlap with broad domains of H3K4me3 in oocytes and ATAC-seq signatures of open chromatin identified in MII oocytes and sperm. In contrast, histone h3, lysine 9 dimethylation (H3K9me2) becomes enriched within the promoters of genes driving meiosis and in the distal enhancer regions of tissue-specific genes sequestered at the nuclear lamina. Maturing sperm contain the histone deacetylase enzymes HDAC1 and HDAC3, suggesting the NuRD complex may drive some of these changes. Finally, using Western blotting, we detected changes in chromatin modifications between caput and caudal sperm isolated from rams (Ovis aries), inferring changes in histone modifications are a shared feature of mammalian epididymal maturation. CONCLUSIONS: These data extend our understanding of germline programming and reveal that, in addition to trafficking noncoding RNAs, changes in histone posttranslational modifications are a core feature of epididymal maturation.

published proceedings

  • Epigenetics Chromatin

altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • Bedi, Y. S., Roach, A. N., Thomas, K. N., Mehta, N. A., & Golding, M. C.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Bedi, Yudhishtar S||Roach, Alexis N||Thomas, Kara N||Mehta, Nicole A||Golding, Michael C

publication date

  • January 2022