A current view of the epigenome in mouse primordial germ cells

Yasuhisa Matsui, Kentaro Mochizuki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Primordial germ cells (PGCs) are undifferentiated germ line cells in embryos that emerge at early stages of embryonic development, and then differentiate into eggs or sperm in gonads to give rise to individuals of successive generations. During germ cell development, several dynamic changes in epigenetic modifications including DNA methylation and histone modifications occur, and these changes are thought to be reprogramming processes that are required for germ cells to confer totipotency to the zygote. Initially, the epigenetic status of particular gene loci in PGCs was studied, but more recently, genome-wide studies have provided more comprehensive views of the PGC epigenome. Mouse PGCs undergo global DNA demethylation that starts shortly after PGC specification in early embryos. Although the functional importance of global DNA demethylation is not fully understood, demethylation of imprinted genes is crucial for erasure of methylation-based imprinting, and demethylation of PGC-specific genes is crucial for proper transcriptional regulation. PGCs also have unique patterns of histone modification, such as hypomethylation of H3K9 and hypermethylation of H3K27, and experimental evidence suggests that the unique epigenetic modifications of histones are important to the proper development of PGCs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-170
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Reproduction and Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Feb


  • DNA methylation
  • Embryo
  • Histone methylation
  • Imprinted genes


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