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One-carbon (1C) metabolism provides methyl groups for the synthesis and/or methylation of purines and pyrimidines, biogenic amines, proteins, and phospholipids. Our understanding of how 1C pathways operate, however, pertains mostly to the (rat) liver. Here we report that transcripts for all bar two genes (i.e., BHMT, MAT1A) encoding enzymes in the linked methionine-folate cycles are expressed in all cell types within the ovarian follicle, oocyte, and blastocyst in the cow, sheep, and pig; as well as in rat granulosa cells (GCs) and human KGN cells (a granulosa-like tumor cell line). Betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT) protein was absent in bovine theca and GCs, as was activity of this enzyme in GCs. Mathematical modeling predicted that absence of this enzyme would lead to more volatile S-adenosylmethionine-mediated transmethylation in response to 1C substrate (e.g., methionine) or cofactor provision. We tested the sensitivity of bovine GCs to reduced methionine (from 50 to 10 µM) and observed a diminished flux of 1C units through the methionine cycle. We then used reduced-representation bisulfite sequencing to demonstrate that this reduction in methionine during bovine embryo culture leads to genome-wide alterations to DNA methylation in >1600 genes, including a cohort of imprinted genes linked to an abnormal fetal-overgrowth phenotype. Bovine ovarian and embryonic cells are acutely sensitive to methionine, but further experimentation is required to determine the significance of interspecific variation in BHMT expression.

Original publication




Journal article


International journal of molecular sciences

Publication Date





Schools of Biosciences and Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire LE12 5RD, UK.


Granulosa Cells, Theca Cells, Oocytes, Blastocyst, Animals, Cattle, Swine, Humans, Rats, Carbon, DNA Methylation, Epigenesis, Genetic, Female, Hep G2 Cells