Transient Polycomb activity represses developmental genes in growing oocytes

Ellen G. Jarred, Zhipeng Qu, Tesha Tsai, Ruby Oberin, Sigrid Petautschnig, Heidi Bildsoe, Stephen Pederson, Qing-hua Zhang, Jessica M. Stringer, John Carroll, David K. Gardner, Maarten Van den Buuse, Natalie A. Sims, William T. Gibson, David L. Adelson, Patrick S. Western

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Non-genetic disease inheritance and offspring phenotype are substantially influenced by germline epigenetic programming, including genomic imprinting. Loss of Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) function in oocytes causes non-genetically inherited effects on offspring, including embryonic growth restriction followed by post-natal offspring overgrowth. While PRC2-dependent non-canonical imprinting is likely to contribute, less is known about germline epigenetic programming of non-imprinted genes during oocyte growth. In addition, de novo germline mutations in genes encoding PRC2 lead to overgrowth syndromes in human patients, but the extent to which PRC2 activity is conserved in human oocytes is poorly understood. Results: In this study, we identify a discrete period of early oocyte growth during which PRC2 is expressed in mouse growing oocytes. Deletion of Eed during this window led to the de-repression of 343 genes. A high proportion of these were developmental regulators, and the vast majority were not imprinted genes. Many of the de-repressed genes were also marked by the PRC2-dependent epigenetic modification histone 3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) in primary–secondary mouse oocytes, at a time concurrent with PRC2 expression. In addition, we found H3K27me3 was also enriched on many of these genes by the germinal vesicle (GV) stage in human oocytes, strongly indicating that this PRC2 function is conserved in the human germline. However, while the 343 genes were de-repressed in mouse oocytes lacking EED, they were not de-repressed in pre-implantation embryos and lost H3K27me3 during pre-implantation development. This implies that H3K27me3 is a transient feature that represses a wide range of genes in oocytes. Conclusions: Together, these data indicate that EED has spatially and temporally distinct functions in the female germline to repress a wide range of developmentally important genes and that this activity is conserved in the mouse and human germlines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number183
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Epigenetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Epigenetic
  • H3K27me3
  • Inheritance
  • Oocyte
  • Polycomb
  • Programming

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