*(S Funaya and Y Kawabata contributed equally to this work)
In oocytes, chromatin structure is loosened during their growth, which seems to be essential for the establishment of competence to accomplish the maturation and further development after fertilization. This paper shows that a linker histone variant, H1foo, is involved in the formation of loosened chromatin structure in growing oocytes.
During oogenesis, oocytes show a unique mode of division and gene expression patterns. Chromatin structure is thought to be involved in the regulation of these processes. In this study, we investigated the functions of linker histones, which modulate higher-order chromatin structure during oogenesis. Because H1foo is highly expressed in oocytes, we knocked down H1foo using siRNA and observed oocyte growth, maturation, and fertilization. However, H1foo knockdown had no effect on any of these processes. Overexpression of H1b or H1d, which has a high ability to condense chromatin and is expressed at a low level in oocytes, resulting in tightened chromatin and a decreased success rate of oocyte maturation. By contrast, overexpression of H1a, which is expressed at a high level in oocytes and has a low ability to compact chromatin, did not affect growth or maturation. Therefore, H1a, but not other variants, might compensate for the function of H1foo in H1foo-knockdown oocytes. These results implicate H1foo in the formation of loose chromatin structure, which is necessary for oocyte maturation. In addition, the low expression of somatic linker histone variants, for example, H1b and H1d, is important for loosened chromatin and meiotic progression.
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