MacroH2As are core histone proteins with a hybrid structure consisting of a domain that closely resembles a full-length histone H2A followed by a large nonhistone domain. We recently showed that one of the macroH2A subtypes, macroH2A1.2, is concentrated in the inactive X chromosome in adult female mammals. Here we examine the timing of the association of macroH2A1.2 with the inactive X chromosome during preimplantation mouse development in order to assess the possibility that macroH2A1 participates in the initiation of X inactivation. The association of macroH2A1.2 with one of the X chromosomes was observed in 50% of blastocysts, occurring mostly, if not exclusively, in extraembryonic cells as was expected from previous studies, which indicated that X inactivation in embryonic lineages happens after implantation. Examination of earlier embryonic stages indicates that the association of macroH2A1 with the inactive X chromosome begins between the 8- and 16-cell stages. Of the changes that are known to happen during X inactivation in preimplantation embryos, the accumulation of macroH2A1 appears to be the earliest marker of the inactive X chromosome and is the only change that has been shown to occur during the period when transcriptional silencing is initiated.

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