Gavin Kelsey

Research Summary

As well as genetic information, the egg and sperm also contribute epigenetic annotations that may influence gene activity after fertilisation. These annotations may be direct modifications of the DNA bases or of the proteins around which the DNA is wrapped into chromatin. Our goal is to understand whether, through epigenetics, factors such as a mother’s age or diet have consequences on the health of a child.
We examine how epigenetic states are set up in oocytes – or egg cells – and influence gene expression in the embryo. For example, repressive chromatin marks in oocytes lead to long-term silencing of genes inherited from the mother, particularly in cells that will form the placenta. We are also interested in how variations in DNA methylation come about in oocytes and whether we can use this variation as a marker for oocyte quality and embryo potential. To investigate these questions, we develop methods to profile epigenetic information in very small numbers of cells or even in single cells.

Latest Publications

Endogenous retroviral insertions drive non-canonical imprinting in extra-embryonic tissues.
Hanna CW, Pérez-Palacios R, Gahurova L, Schubert M, Krueger F, Biggins L, Andrews S, Colomé-Tatché M, Bourc'his D, Dean W, Kelsey G

Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon that allows a subset of genes to be expressed mono-allelically based on the parent of origin and is typically regulated by differential DNA methylation inherited from gametes. Imprinting is pervasive in murine extra-embryonic lineages, and uniquely, the imprinting of several genes has been found to be conferred non-canonically through maternally inherited repressive histone modification H3K27me3. However, the underlying regulatory mechanisms of non-canonical imprinting in post-implantation development remain unexplored.

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Genome biology, 20, 1474-760X, 2019

PMID: 31665063

DNA methylation and mRNA expression of imprinted genes in blastocysts derived from an improved in vitro maturation method for oocytes from small antral follicles in polycystic ovary syndrome patients.
Saenz-de-Juano MD, Ivanova E, Romero S, Lolicato F, Sánchez F, Van Ranst H, Krueger F, Segonds-Pichon A, De Vos M, Andrews S, Smitz J, Kelsey G, Anckaert E

Does imprinted DNA methylation or imprinted gene expression differ between human blastocysts from conventional ovarian stimulation (COS) and an optimized two-step IVM method (CAPA-IVM) in age-matched polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) patients?

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Human reproduction (Oxford, England), 34, 1460-2350, 2019

PMID: 31398248

A DNMT3A PWWP mutation leads to methylation of bivalent chromatin and growth retardation in mice.
Sendžikaitė G, Hanna CW, Stewart-Morgan KR, Ivanova E, Kelsey G

DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) deposit DNA methylation, which regulates gene expression and is essential for mammalian development. Histone post-translational modifications modulate the recruitment and activity of DNMTs. The PWWP domains of DNMT3A and DNMT3B are posited to interact with histone 3 lysine 36 trimethylation (H3K36me3); however, the functionality of this interaction for DNMT3A remains untested in vivo. Here we present a mouse model carrying a D329A point mutation in the DNMT3A PWWP domain. The mutation causes dominant postnatal growth retardation. At the molecular level, it results in progressive DNA hypermethylation across domains marked by H3K27me3 and bivalent chromatin, and de-repression of developmental regulatory genes in adult hypothalamus. Evaluation of non-CpG methylation, a marker of de novo methylation, further demonstrates the altered recruitment and activity of DNMT3A at bivalent domains. This work provides key molecular insights into the function of the DNMT3A-PWWP domain and role of DNMT3A in regulating postnatal growth.

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Nature communications, 10, 2041-1723, 2019

PMID: 31015495