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Rowena Smith, Sue J Pickering, Anna Kopakaki, K J Thong, Richard A Anderson, and Chih-Jen Lin

Elucidating the mechanisms underpinning fertilisation is essential to optimising IVF procedures. One of the critical steps involves paternal chromatin reprogramming, in which compacted sperm chromatin packed by protamines is removed by oocyte factors and new histones, including histone H3.3, are incorporated. HIRA is the main H3.3 chaperone governing this protamine-to-histone exchange. Failure of this step results in abnormally fertilised zygotes containing only one pronucleus (1PN), in contrast to normal two-pronuclei (2PN) zygotes. 1PN zygotes are frequently observed in IVF treatments, but the genotype-phenotype correlation remains elusive. We investigated the maternal functions of two other molecules of the HIRA complex, Cabin1 and Ubn1, in mouse. Loss-of-function Cabin1 and Ubn1 mouse models were developed: their zygotes displayed an abnormal 1PN zygote phenotype. We then studied human 1PN zygotes and found that the HIRA complex was absent in 1PN zygotes that lacked the male pronucleus. This shows that the role of the HIRA complex in male pronucleus formation potentially has coherence from mice to humans. Furthermore, rescue experiments in mouse showed that the abnormal 1PN phenotype derived from Hira mutants could be resolved by overexpression of HIRA. We have demonstrated that HIRA complex regulates male pronucleus formation in mice and is implicated in humans, that both CABIN1 and UBN1 components of the HIRA complex are equally essential for male pronucleus formation, and that rescue is feasible.