Expression of imprinted genes is restricted to a single parental allele as a result of epigenetic regulation—DNA methylation and histone modifications. Igf2/H19 is a reciprocally imprinted locus exhibiting paternal Igf2 and maternal H19 expression. Their expression is regulated by a paternally methylated imprinting control region (ICR) located between the two genes. Although the de novo DNA methyltransferases have been shown to be necessary for the establishment of ICR methylation, the mechanism by which they are targeted to the region remains unknown. We demonstrate that CTCFL/BORIS, a paralog of CTCF, is an ICR-binding protein expressed during embryonic male germ cell development, coinciding with the timing of ICR methylation. PRMT7, a protein arginine methyltransferase with which CTCFL interacts, is also expressed during embryonic testis development. Symmetrical dimethyl arginine 3 of histone H4, a modification catalyzed by PRMT7, accumulates in germ cells during this developmental period. This modified histone is also found enriched in both H19 ICR and Gtl2 differentially methylated region (DMR) chromatin of testis by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis. In vitro studies demonstrate that CTCFL stimulates the histone-methyltransferase activity of PRMT7 via interactions with both histones and PRMT7. Finally, H19 ICR methylation is demonstrated by nuclear co-injection of expression vectors encoding CTCFL, PRMT7, and the de novo DNA methyltransferases, Dnmt3a, -b and -L, in Xenopus oocytes. These results suggest that CTCFL and PRMT7 may play a role in male germline imprinted gene methylation.
The testes-specific factor CTCFL (also called BORIS) can cooperate with the arginine histone methyltransferase (PRMT7) to induce de novo DNA methylation at an imprinting control region.