In mammals, a near complete resetting of DNA methylation (DNAme) is observed during germline establishment. This wave of epigenetic reprogramming is sensitive to the environment, which could impair the establishment of an optimal state of the gamete epigenome, hence proper embryo development. Yet, we lack a comprehensive understanding of DNAme dynamics during spermatogenesis, especially in rats, the model of choice for toxicological studies. Using a combination of cell sorting and DNA methyl-seq capture, we generated a stage-specific mapping of DNAme in nine populations of differentiating germ cells from perinatal life to spermiogenesis. DNAme was found to reach its lowest level at gestational day 18, the last demethylated coding regions being associated with negative regulation of cell movement. The following de novo DNAme displayed three different kinetics with common and distinct genomic enrichments, suggesting a non-random process. DNAme variations were also detected at key steps of chromatin remodeling during spermiogenesis, revealing potential sensitivity. These methylome datasets for coding sequences during normal spermatogenesis in rat provide an essential reference for studying epigenetic-related effects of disease or environmental factors on the male germline.

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