Project Title: Epigenetic regulation of gene expression during spermatogenesis
Mentor: Becky L. Sartini
Abstract: Recent research has suggested epigenetic modifications to be a potential cause of male subfertility. One such characteristic is DNA methylation which has the potential to alter and/or repress gene expression during sperm production. The methylation levels of Sirtuin (SIRT1), a candidate fertility gene, was investigated in ram sperm and testes to determine if levels differed between the two sources potentially indicating epigenetic regulation of spermatozoa DNA after the cell has developed in the testis. To conduct this research, DNA was isolated from the sperm and testes (n=2 rams) and the methylation levels of the gene was detected via MS-PCR. Methylated SIRT1 was present in both sample types while unmethylated SIRT1 was not detected. The concentration of methylated SIRT1 was determined via qPCR resulting in higher concentrations of the gene in the testis tissue for one ram but higher concentrations in the sperm of the second ram. Whether the methylation of SIRT1 has an epigenetic impact could not be determined which may be due to small sample size or to individual variation. Future experiments should investigate additional genes involved in fertility to determine the epigenetic impact on ram fertility.