Initiation of X Chromosome Inactivation during Bovine Embryo Development

Bo Yu, Helena T A van Tol, Tom A E Stout, Bernard A J Roelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


X-chromosome inactivation (XCI) is a developmental process that aims to equalize the dosage of X-linked gene products between XY males and XX females in eutherian mammals. In female mouse embryos, paternal XCI is initiated at the 4-cell stage; however, the X chromosome is reactivated in the inner cell mass cells of blastocysts, and random XCI is subsequently initiated in epiblast cells. However, recent findings show that the patterns of XCI are not conserved among mammals. In this study, we used quantitative RT-PCR and RNA in situ hybridization combined with immunofluorescence to investigate the pattern of XCI during bovine embryo development. Expression of XIST (X-inactive specific transcript) RNA was significantly upregulated at the morula stage. For the first time, we demonstrate that XIST accumulation in bovine embryos starts in nuclei of female morulae, but its colocalization with histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation was first detected in day 7 blastocysts. Both in the inner cell mass and in putative epiblast precursors, we observed a proportion of cells with XIST RNA and H3K27me3 colocalization. Surprisingly, the onset of XCI did not lead to a global downregulation of X-linked genes, even in day 9 blastocysts. Together, our findings confirm that diverse patterns of XCI initiation exist among developing mammalian embryos.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1016
Number of pages18
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2020


  • XCI
  • bovine
  • embryo
  • XIST
  • H3K27me3
  • inner cell mass


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