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Vijay Pratap Singh, Wei-ting Yueh, Jennifer L. Gerton and Francesca E. Duncan

Eighteen histone deacetylases exist in mammals. The class 1 histone deacetylases HDAC1 and HDAC2 are important for oogenesis and fertility in mice, likely via their effects on histones. The reproductive function of HDAC8, another class 1 enzyme, has not been explored. One key target of HDAC8 is the SMC3 subunit of cohesin, an essential complex mediating sister chromatid cohesion and chromosome segregation. In current models, HDAC8 activity is required for SMC3 recycling, but this function should be dispensable in oocytes since cohesion is established during pre-meiotic S phase and maintained until meiotic resumption during ovulation. Whether other oocyte specific HDAC8 mediated deacetylation events are required for oogenesis and female fertility is unknown. We used two cre drivers to remove Hdac8 at specific stages of oocyte development to address whether HDAC8 is required for female fertility in mice. When HDAC8 was knocked out in oocytes in primary and later stage follicles (Zp3-Cre), oogenesis and folliculogenesis appeared normal and mice were fertile. However, females were sub-fertile when HDAC8 was knocked out prior to pre-meiotic S phase and cohesion establishment (Vasa-Cre). This subfertility was independent of chromosome segregation errors during meiosis but rather appeared to be the result of defects in oogenesis that resulted in smaller fully grown oocytes with a reduced ability to resume meiosis. In all cases, we did not observe compensatory changes in HDAC1, HDAC2, and HDAC3 levels. Thus, although oocyte-specific expression of HDAC8 is not essential for mouse oogenesis after meiotic S phase, it contributes to optimal fertility.