The Sperm Epigenome and Potential Implications for the Developing Embryo

  • Emma Rae James
  • Timothy G. Jenkins
  • Douglas T. CarrellEmail author


The sperm epigenome is largely set in spermatogonia, with subsequent refinements made throughout spermatogenesis. The resulting sperm epigenome contributes to a uniquely bivalent “poised” epigenome, which has been shown in animal and human studies to suggest a role in early gene expression in the early embryo. Additionally, the sperm epigenome delivers a unique set of small RNA molecules, including miRNAs and tRNA fragments believed to be involved in embryogenesis and inheritance of environmentally modified traits. The clinical ramifications of the sperm epigenome are profound in regard to potential causes of infertility and health of the offspring. Future studies are aimed at better understanding the mechanisms of epigenetically derived effects on the embryo, especially considering the profound remodeling to the sperm epigenome that is initiated at the pronuclear stage of development. Additionally, a better understanding of the effects of environmental insults to the sperm epigenome will aid in decreasing risk to the health of offspring.


Epigenetic DNA methylation Histones RNA Embryogenesis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma Rae James
    • 1
  • Timothy G. Jenkins
    • 1
  • Douglas T. Carrell
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Surgery (Andrology) and Human GeneticsUniversity of Utah School of MedicineSalt Lake CityUSA

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