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The histone deacetylase activity of HDAC1/2 is required to safeguard zygotic genome activation in mice and cattle

By Yanna Dang, Shuang Li, Panpan Zhao, Lieying Xiao, Lefeng Wang, Yan Shi, Lei Luo, Shaohua Wang, Huanan Wang, Kun Zhang

Posted 11 Sep 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.09.11.459880

The genome is transcriptionally inert at fertilization and must be activated through a remarkable developmental process called zygotic genome activation (ZGA). The gene expression pattern formed over the course of ZGA is required for establishing totipotency in early embryos and subsequent development. Substantial epigenetic reprogramming contributes significantly to the pronounced change in gene expression during ZGA, however the mechanism has yet to be resolved. Here, we find histone deacetylase 1 and 2 (HDAC1/2) are critical histone modifiers that regulate ZGA through the histone deacetylase activity. Notably, we show that H3K27ac level declines dramatically during ZGA with a dynamic change in its genome-wide distribution. In mouse embryos, ectopic expression of HDAC1/2 dominant negative mutant leads to a failure of H3K27ac removal and a developmental arrest at 2-cell stage. RNA-seq results reveal a remarkable transcriptomic change with 6565 differentially expressed genes identified. Further analysis shows 64% of down-regulated genes are ZGA genes and 49% of up-regulated genes are developmental genes. Low input ChIP-seq analysis exhibits an increase and decrease of H3K27ac enrichment at the promoter region of up- and down-regulated genes, respectively. Moreover, HDAC1 mutants prohibited removal of broad H3K4me3 domain via impeding the expression of Kdm5s during ZGA. Importantly, the developmental block can be greatly overcome through injection of Kdm5b mRNA and expression of the majority of dysregulated genes partially corrected. Similar functional significance of HDAC1/2 in ZGA is conserved in bovine embryos. Together, we propose that HDAC1/2 is indispensable for mouse and bovine ZGA via creating correct transcriptional repressive and active states.

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