A Window of MHM Demethylation Correlates with Key Events in Gonadal Differentiation in the Chicken

Xiurong Yang, Jixian Deng, Jiangxia Zheng, Li Xia, Zhuliang Yang, Lujiang Qu, Sirui Chen, Guiyun Xu, Hesheng Jiang, Michael Clinton, Ning Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The MHM (male hypermethylated) region on the chicken Z-chromosome is of interest in term of sex-determination both because hypermethylation of the promoter in males results in female-specific expression, and because, in females, the non-coding transcripts accumulate in the region of a locus that encodes a key candidate gene in testis differentiation in chicken – DMRT1. However, it has yet to be established whether MHM plays a role in either sex-determination or gonadal development in chickens. Here, we sought to establish the MHM methylation pattern during chick gonadal development and determine how this pattern correlates with the expression profiles of genes involved in sex determination and gonadal differentiation. As expected, we found that MHM methylation levels were higher in male gonads than in female gonads at most stages of development. We also showed that there was no significant difference in the methylation patterns between right and left gonads, and that the pattern of methylation in female gonads was not affected by sex-reversal. However, we did find an unexpected window where MHM promoter methylation levels were very low in both males and females. This developmental window coincided with a stage of gonad development where there is a dramatic increase in expression of key testis genes in males and of key ovary genes in females. The current study raises the possibility that the non-coding RNA transcripts of MHM may affect testis and ovary differentiation by influencing sex-specific gene expression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-158
JournalSexual Development
Issue number3
Early online date26 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Chicken
  • Embryo Development
  • MHM Methylation
  • Gonadal Differentiation
  • Sex-specific expression


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