[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Germ cells divide and differentiate in a unique local microenvironment under the control of somatic cells. Signals released in this niche instruct oocyte reentry into the meiotic cell cycle. Once initiated, the progression through meiosis and the associated programme of maternal messenger RNA translation are thought to be cell autonomous. Here we show that translation of a subset of maternal mRNAs critical for embryo development is under the control of somatic cell inputs. Translation of specific maternal transcripts increases in oocytes cultured in association with somatic cells and is sensitive to EGF-like growth factors that act only on the somatic compartment. In mice deficient in amphiregulin, decreased fecundity and oocyte developmental competence is associated with defective translation of a subset of maternal mRNAs. These somatic cell signals that affect translation require activation of the PI(3)K-AKT-mTOR pathway. Thus, mRNA translation depends on somatic cell cues that are essential to reprogramme the oocyte for embryo development.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Developmental regulatory genes have both activating (H3K4me3) and repressive (H3K27me3) histone modifications in embryonic stem cells (ESCs). This bivalent configuration is thought to maintain lineage commitment programs in a poised state. However, establishing physiological relevance has been complicated by the high number of cells required for chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP). We developed a low-cell-number chromatin immunoprecipitation (low-cell ChIP) protocol to investigate the chromatin of mouse primordial germ cells (PGCs). Genome-wide analysis of embryonic day 11.5 (E11.5) PGCs revealed H3K4me3/H3K27me3 bivalent domains highly enriched at developmental regulatory genes in a manner remarkably similar to ESCs. Developmental regulators remain bivalent and transcriptionally silent through the initiation of sexual differentiation at E13.5. We also identified >2,500 "orphan" bivalent domains that are distal to known genes and expressed in a tissue-specific manner but silent in PGCs. Our results demonstrate the existence of bivalent domains in the germline and raise the possibility that the somatic program is continuously maintained as bivalent, potentially imparting transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.