Sequences Sufficient for Programming Imprinted Germline DNA Methylation Defined

<div><p>Epigenetic marks are fundamental to normal development, but little is known about signals that dictate their placement. Insights have been provided by studies of imprinted loci in mammals, where monoallelic expression is epigenetically controlled. Imprinted expression is regulated by DNA methylation programmed during gametogenesis in a sex-specific manner and maintained after fertilization. At <em>Rasgrf1</em> in mouse, paternal-specific DNA methylation on a differential methylation domain (DMD) requires downstream tandem repeats. The DMD and repeats constitute a binary switch regulating paternal-specific expression. Here, we define sequences sufficient for imprinted methylation using two transgenic mouse lines: One carries the entire <em>Rasgrf1</em> cluster (RC); the second carries only the DMD and repeats (DR) from <em>Rasgrf1</em>. The RC transgene recapitulated all aspects of imprinting seen at the endogenous locus. DR underwent proper DNA methylation establishment in sperm and erasure in oocytes, indicating the DMD and repeats are sufficient to program imprinted DNA methylation in germlines. Both transgenes produce a DMD-spanning pit-RNA, previously shown to be necessary for imprinted DNA methylation at the endogenous locus. We show that when pit-RNA expression is controlled by the repeats, it regulates DNA methylation in <em>cis</em> only and not in <em>trans</em>. Interestingly, pedigree history dictated whether established DR methylation patterns were maintained after fertilization. When DR was paternally transmitted followed by maternal transmission, the unmethylated state that was properly established in the female germlines could not be maintained. This provides a model for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in mice.</p> </div>