Evaluation of genome-wide DNA methylation profile of human embryos with different developmental competences

Yang, M, Tao, X, Scott, K, Zhan, Y, Scott, R T, Seli, E,
Hum Reprod. Apr. 2021 doi: 10.1093/humrep/deab074


STUDY QUESTION: Do embryos with different developmental competence exhibit different DNA methylation profiles at the blastocyst stage? SUMMARY ANSWER: We established genome-wide DNA methylome analysis for embryo trophectoderm (TE) biopsy samples and our findings demonstrated correlation of methylation profile of trophectoderm with euploidy status and with maternal age, indicating that genome-wide methylation level might be negatively correlated with embryo quality. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: DNA methylation is a fundamental epigenetic regulatory mechanism that affects differentiation of cells into their future lineages during pre-implantation embryo development. Currently there is no established approach available to assess the epigenetic status of the human preimplantation embryo during routine IVF treatment. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: In total, we collected trophectoderm biopsy samples from 30 randomly selected human blastocysts and conducted whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) to evaluate their DNA methylation profile. Nested linear models were used to assess association between DNA methylation level and ploidy status (aneuploidy [n = 20] vs. euploidy [n = 10]), maternal age (29.4-42.5 years old), and time of blastulation (day 5 [n = 16] vs. day 6 [n = 14]), using embryo identity as a covariate. PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: TE biopsy samples were obtained and submitted to bisulfite conversion. For WGBS, whole-genome sequencing libraries were then generated from the converted genome. An average of 75 million reads were obtained for each sample, and about 63% of the reads aligned to human reference. An average of 40 million reads used for the final analysis after the unconverted reads were filtered out. MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: We revealed an increase of genome-wide DNA methylation level in aneuploid embryo TE biopsies compared to euploid embryos (25.4% +/- 3.2% vs. 24.7% +/- 3.2%, P < 0.005). We also found genome-wide DNA methylation level to be increased with the maternal age (P < 0.005). On a chromosomal scale, we found monosomic embryos have lower methylation levels on the involved chromosome while no drastic change was observed for the involved chromosome in trisomies. Additionally, we revealed that WGBS data precisely revealed the chromosome copy number variance. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Though our results demonstrated a negative correlation of genome-wide methylation level and embryo quality, further WGBS analysis on a greater number of embryos and specific investigation of its correlation with implantation and live birth are needed before any practical use of this approach for evaluation of embryo competence. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: This study revealed a change in genome-wide DNA methylation profile among embryos with different developmental potentials, reinforcing the critical role of DNA methylation in early development. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): No external funding was received for this study. Intramural funding was provided by the Foundation for Embryonic Competence (FEC). E.S. is a consultant for and receives research funding from the Foundation for Embryonic Competence; he is also co-founder and a shareholder of ACIS LLC and coholds patent US2019/055906 issued for utilizing electrical resistance measurement for assessing cell viability and cell membrane piercing. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: N/A.