Perspectives and outlook

Epigenetic reprogramming of the genome during gametogenesis and the preim-plantation period sets the developmental program for normal embryogenesis. The sex-specific functional non-equivalence of the parental genomes (genomic imprinting) established during gametogenesis emphasizes the importance of epigenetic reprogramming during this period and confirms the requirement of both parental genomes to normal development. Studies done on highly specialized biological processes such as genomic imprinting and X inactivation have begun to unravel how epigenetic reprogramming works. Some of the key aspects involve dynamic changes in DNA methylation, histone modifications and chromatin remodeling taking place in a timely fashion during male and female germ cell development. Many DNA- and histone-modifying enzymes as well as chromatin-remodeling factors have recently been identified and have contributed to our understanding of the mechanisms governing epigenetic reprogramming. Some of the challenges that we face during the next decade include understanding how these epigenetic factors assemble into regulatory networks, how they are targeted to specific genes or chromosomal domains, as well as the consequences of perturbations occurring during gametogenesis.

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