JR Peat, W Dean, SJ Clark, F Krueger, SA Smallwood, G Ficz, JK Kim, JC Marioni, TA Hore, W Reik
Fertilization triggers global erasure of paternal 5-methylcytosine as part of epigenetic reprogramming during the transition from gametic specialization to totipotency. This involves oxidation by TET3, but our understanding of its targets and the wider context of demethylation is limited to a small fraction of the genome. We employed an optimized bisulfite strategy to generate genome-wide methylation profiles of control and TET3-deficient zygotes, using SNPs to access paternal alleles. This revealed that in addition to pervasive removal from intergenic sequences and most retrotransposons, gene bodies constitute a major target of zygotic demethylation. Methylation loss is associated with zygotic genome activation and at gene bodies is also linked to increased transcriptional noise in early development. Our data map the primary contribution of oxidative demethylation to a subset of gene bodies and intergenic sequences and implicate redundant pathways at many loci. Unexpectedly, we demonstrate that TET3 activity also protects certain CpG islands against methylation buildup.