A workflow for simultaneous DNA copy number and methylome analysis of inner cell mass and trophectoderm cells from human blastocyst

Isolating and sequencing single cells from human blastocysts is logistically possible, and further use of methylation profiling can help to distinguish these two cell populations.

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VOLUME 115, ISSUE 6, P1533-1540


Meir Olcha, M.D., Xiao Dong, Ph.D., Heather Feil, M.S., Xiaoxiao Hao, M.S., Moonsook Lee, M.S., Sangita Jindal, Ph.D., Erkan Buyuk, M.D., Jan Vijg, Ph.D.



To establish a workflow for isolating single trophectoderm (TE) and inner cell mass (ICM) cells and to simultaneously evaluate these cells for copy number variation (CNV) as well as methylome development.




Academic medical center.


Donated genetically abnormal blastocysts.


Single cells were isolated, followed by bisulfite conversion and sequencing to identify CNV and methylome profiles.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

CNV and methylation profiling.


Two embryos were dissociated, isolating 46 single cells, with 17 ICM and 12 TE cells selected for further downstream analysis. Chromosome ploidies and embryo sex were concordant with the results from conventional aneuploidy testing. In 3 of the 29 cells, additional aneuploidies were discovered, indicating possible mosaicism undetected by routine preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy. CpG methylation frequency was higher in ICM cells compared with TE cells (44.3% vs. 32.4%), respectively, while non-CpG methylation frequency was similar among both cell types. CpG methylation levels accurately distinguished ICM from TE cells epigenetically.


We describe an effective workflow for isolating and sequencing single ICM and TE cells from human blastocysts. The use of methylation profiling can help distinguish these two cell populations better then morphologic identification alone. TE cells had significantly lower levels of DNA methylation, which may be explained in part by the fact that these cells have begun the process of differentiation and are transcriptionally more active than ICM. This approach may be used to explore the genetic complexities within human embryos, specifically among the two primary cell types seen at this stage of development.

Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.