Published on Wed Sep 08 2021

Maternal SMCHD1 regulates Hox gene expression andpatterning in the mouse embryo

Benetti, N., Gouil, Q., Tapia del Fierro, A., Beck, T., Breslin, K., Keniry, A., McGlinn, E., Blewitt, M. E.

Maternal SMCHD1 has a maternal effect on Hox gene expression and skeletal patterning. Without maternal SMCHd1, highly penetrant posterior homeotic transformations occur in the embryo. This is a striking role for maternal SM CHD1.

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Abstract

Parents transmit genetic and epigenetic information to their offspring. Maternal effect genes regulate the offspring epigenome to ensure normal development. Here we report that the epigenetic regulator SMCHD1 has a maternal effect on Hox gene expression and skeletal patterning. Maternal SMCHD1, present in the oocyte and preimplantation embryo, prevents precocious activation of Hox genes post-implantation. Without maternal SMCHD1, highly penetrant posterior homeotic transformations occur in the embryo. Hox genes are decorated with Polycomb marks H2AK119ub and H3K27me3 from the oocyte throughout early embryonic development; however, loss of maternal SMCHD1 does not alter these marks. Therefore, we propose maternal SMCHD1 acts downstream of Polycomb marks to establish a chromatin state necessary for persistent epigenetic silencing and appropriate Hox gene expression later in the developing embryo. This is a striking role for maternal SMCHD1 in long-lived epigenetic effects impacting offspring phenotype.