HP1γ function is required for male germ cell survival and spermatogenesis

Jeremy P. Brown, Jörn Bullwinkel, Bettina Baron-Lühr, Mustafa Billur, Philipp Schneider, Heinz Winking, Prim B. Singh

34 Citations (Scopus)


Background. HP1 proteins are conserved components of eukaryotic constitutive heterochromatin. In mammals, there are three genes that encode HP1-like proteins, termed HP1α, HP1β and HP1γ, which have a high degree of homology This paper describes for the first time, to our knowledge, the physiological function of HP1γ using a gene-targeted mouse. Results. While targeting the Cbx3 gene (encoding the HP1γ protein) with a conditional targeting vector, we generated a hypomorphic allele (Cbx3 hypo), which resulted in much reduced (barely detectable) levels of HP1γ protein. Homozygotes for the hypomorphic allele (Cbx3 hypo/hypo) are rare, with only 1% of Cbx3hypo/hypo animals reaching adulthood. Adult males exhibit a severe hypogonadism that is associated with a loss of germ cells, with some seminiferous tubules retaining only the supporting Sertoli cells (Sertoli cell-only phenotype). The percentage of seminiferous tubules that are positive for L1 ORF1 protein (ORF1p) in Cbx3hypo/hypo testes is greater than that for wild-type testes, indicating that L1 retrotransposon silencing is reversed, leading to ectopic expression of ORF1p in Cbx3hypo/hypo germ cells. Conclusions. The Cbx3 gene product (the HP1 protein) has a non-redundant function during spermatogenesis that cannot be compensated for by the other two HP1 isotypes. The Cbx3hypo/hypo spermatogenesis defect is similar to that found in Miwi2 and Dnmt3L mutants. The Cbx3 gene-targeted mice generated in this study provide an appropriate model for the study of HP1 in transposon silencing and parental imprinting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
JournalEpigenetics and Chromatin
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 04.06.2010
Externally publishedYes


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