The role of CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) in genomic imprinting, development, and reproduction.
CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) is the major protein involved in insulator activity in vertebrates, with widespread DNA binding sites in the genome. CTCF participates in many processes related to global chromatin organization and remodeling, contributing to the repression or activation of gene transcription. It is also involved in epigenetic reprogramming and is essential during gametogenesis and embryo development. Abnormal DNA methylation patterns at CTCF motifs may impair CTCF binding to DNA, and are related to fertility disorders in mammals. Therefore, CTCF and its binding sites are important candidate regions to be investigated as molecular markers for gamete and embryo quality. This article reviews the role of CTCF in genomic imprinting, gametogenesis, and early embryo development and, moreover, highlights potential opportunities for environmental influences associated with assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) to affect CTCF-mediated processes. We discuss the potential use of CTCF as a molecular marker for assessing gamete and embryo quality in the context of improving the efficiency and safety of ARTs. © 2014 by the Society for the Study of Reproduction, Inc.DOI: 10.1095/biolreprod.114.122945