Apart from mice, meiosis initiation factors and their transcriptional regulation mechanisms are largely unknown in mammals. This study suggests that STRA8 and MEIOSIN are both meiosis initiation factors in mammals, but their transcription is epigenetically regulated differently from each other.
In the mouse, the timing of meiosis onset differs between sexes due to the sex-specific regulation of the meiosis initiation factors, STRA8 and MEIOSIN. Before the initiation of meiotic prophase I, the Stra8 promoter loses suppressive histone-3-lysine-27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) in both sexes, suggesting that H3K27me3-associated chromatin remodelling may be responsible for activating STRA8 and its co-factor MEIOSIN. Here we examined MEIOSIN and STRA8 expression in a eutherian (the mouse), two marsupials (the grey short-tailed opossum and the tammar wallaby) and two monotremes (the platypus and the short-beaked echidna) to ask whether this pathway is conserved between all mammals. The conserved expression of both genes in all three mammalian groups and of MEIOSIN and STRA8 protein in therian mammals suggests that they are the meiosis initiation factors in all mammals. Analyses of published DNase-seq and chromatin-immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) data sets confirmed that H3K27me3-associated chromatin remodelling occurred at the STRA8, but not the MEIOSIN, promoter in therian mammals. Furthermore, culturing tammar ovaries with an inhibitor of H3K27me3 demethylation before meiotic prophase I affected STRA8 but not MEIOSIN transcriptional levels. Our data suggest that H3K27me3-associated chromatin remodelling is an ancestral mechanism that allows STRA8 expression in mammalian pre-meiotic germ cells.