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Volume 13, Issue 1 (January 2011) 13, 31–35; 10.1038/aja.2010.75

Non-genetic contributions of the sperm nucleus to embryonic development

Yasuhiro Yamauchi1, Jeffrey A Shaman2 and W Steven Ward11

1 Department Anatomy and Reproductive Biology, Institute for Biogenesis Research, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, USA
2 GLP Services, GENEWIZ Inc., 115 Corporate Blvd. South Plainfield, NJ 07080, USA

Correspondence: Dr WS Ward, (wward@hawaii.edu)


Recent data from several laboratories have provided evidence that the newly fertilized oocyte inherits epigenetic signals from the sperm chromatin that are required for proper embryonic development. For the purposes of this review, the term epigenetic is used to describe all types of molecular information that are transmitted from the sperm cell to the embryo. There are at least six different forms of epigenetic information that have already been established as being required for proper embryogenesis in mammals or for which there is evidence that it may do so. These are (i) DNA methylation; (ii) sperm-specific histones, (iii) other chromatin-associated proteins; (iv) the perinuclear theca proteins; (v) sperm-born RNAs and, the focus of this review; and (vi) the DNA loop domain organization by the sperm nuclear matrix. These epigenetic signals should be considered when designing protocols for the manipulation and cryopreservation of spermatozoa for assisted reproductive technology as necessary components for effective fertilization and subsequent embryo development.

Keywords: embryogenesis; epigenetics; sperm DNA; sperm nuclear matrix; DNA loop domain organization

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