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1.  Genomic Imprinting in the Arabidopsis Embryo Is Partly Regulated by PRC2 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(12):e1003862.
Genomic imprinting results in monoallelic gene expression in a parent-of-origin-dependent manner and is regulated by the differential epigenetic marking of the parental alleles. In plants, genomic imprinting has been primarily described for genes expressed in the endosperm, a tissue nourishing the developing embryo that does not contribute to the next generation. In Arabidopsis, the genes MEDEA (MEA) and PHERES1 (PHE1), which are imprinted in the endosperm, are also expressed in the embryo; whether their embryonic expression is regulated by imprinting or not, however, remains controversial. In contrast, the maternally expressed in embryo 1 (mee1) gene of maize is clearly imprinted in the embryo. We identified several imprinted candidate genes in an allele-specific transcriptome of hybrid Arabidopsis embryos and confirmed parent-of-origin-dependent, monoallelic expression for eleven maternally expressed genes (MEGs) and one paternally expressed gene (PEG) in the embryo, using allele-specific expression analyses and reporter gene assays. Genetic studies indicate that the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) but not the DNA METHYLTRANSFERASE1 (MET1) is involved in regulating imprinted expression in the embryo. In the seedling, all embryonic MEGs and the PEG are expressed from both parents, suggesting that the imprint is erased during late embryogenesis or early vegetative development. Our finding that several genes are regulated by genomic imprinting in the Arabidopsis embryo clearly demonstrates that this epigenetic phenomenon is not a unique feature of the endosperm in both monocots and dicots.
Author Summary
In most cells nuclear genes are present in two copies, with one maternal and one paternal allele. Usually, the two alleles share the same fate regarding their activity, with both copies being active or both being silent. An exception to this rule are genes that are regulated by genomic imprinting, where only one allele is expressed and the other one remains silent depending on the parent it was inherited from. The two alleles are equal in terms of their DNA sequence but carry different epigenetic marks distinguishing them. Genomic imprinting evolved independently in mammals and flowering plants. In mammals, genes regulated by genomic imprinting are expressed in a wide range of tissues including the embryo and the placenta. In plants, genomic imprinting has been primarily described for genes expressed in the endosperm, a nutritive tissue in the seed with a function similar to that of the mammalian placenta. Here, we describe that some genes are also regulated by genomic imprinting in the embryo of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. An epigenetic silencing complex, the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2), partly regulates genomic imprinting in the embryo. Interestingly, embryonic imprints seem to be erased during late embryo or early seedling development.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003862
PMCID: PMC3854695  PMID: 24339783
2.  Telomeric NAP1L4 and OSBPL5 of the KCNQ1 Cluster, and the DECORIN Gene Are Not Imprinted in Human Trophoblast Stem Cells 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11595.
Background
Genomic imprinting of the largest known cluster, the Kcnq1/KCNQ1 domain on mChr7/hChr11, displays significant differences between mouse and man. Of the fourteen transcripts in this cluster, imprinting of six is ubiquitous in mice and humans, however, imprinted expression of the other eight transcripts is only found in the mouse placenta. The human orthologues of the latter eight transcripts are biallelically expressed, at least from the first trimester onwards. However, as early development is less divergent between species, placental specific imprinting may be present in very early gestation in both mice and humans.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Human embryonic stem (hES) cells can be differentiated to embryoid bodies and then to trophoblast stem (EB-TS) cells. Using EB-TS cells as a model of post-implantation invading cytotrophoblast, we analysed allelic expression of two telomeric transcripts whose imprinting is placental specific in the mouse, as well as the ncRNA KCNQ1OT1, whose imprinted expression is ubiquitous in early human and mouse development. KCNQ1OT1 expression was monoallelic in all samples but OSBPL5 and NAP1L4 expression was biallelic in EB-TS cells, as well as undifferentiated hES cells and first trimester human fetal placenta. DCN on hChr12, another gene imprinted in the mouse placenta only, was also biallelically expressed in EB-TS cells. The germline maternal methylation imprint at the KvDMR was maintained in both undifferentiated hES cells and EB-TS cells.
Conclusions/Significance
The question of placental specific imprinting in the human has not been answered fully. Using a model of human trophoblast very early in gestation we show a lack of imprinting of two telomeric genes in the KCNQ1 region and of DCN, whose imprinted expression is placental specific in mice, providing further evidence to suggest that humans do not exhibit placental specific imprinting. The maintenance of both differential methylation of the KvDMR and monoallelic expression of KCNQ1OT1 indicates that the region is appropriately regulated epigenetically in vitro. Human gestational load is less than in the mouse, resulting in reduced need for maternal resource competition, and therefore maybe also a lack of placental specific imprinting. If genomic imprinting exists to control fetal acquisition of maternal resources driven by the placenta, placenta-specific imprinting may be less important in the human than the mouse.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011595
PMCID: PMC2904374  PMID: 20644730
3.  High-Resolution Analysis of Parent-of-Origin Allelic Expression in the Arabidopsis Endosperm 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002126.
Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon leading to parent-of-origin specific differential expression of maternally and paternally inherited alleles. In plants, genomic imprinting has mainly been observed in the endosperm, an ephemeral triploid tissue derived after fertilization of the diploid central cell with a haploid sperm cell. In an effort to identify novel imprinted genes in Arabidopsis thaliana, we generated deep sequencing RNA profiles of F1 hybrid seeds derived after reciprocal crosses of Arabidopsis Col-0 and Bur-0 accessions. Using polymorphic sites to quantify allele-specific expression levels, we could identify more than 60 genes with potential parent-of-origin specific expression. By analyzing the distribution of DNA methylation and epigenetic marks established by Polycomb group (PcG) proteins using publicly available datasets, we suggest that for maternally expressed genes (MEGs) repression of the paternally inherited alleles largely depends on DNA methylation or PcG-mediated repression, whereas repression of the maternal alleles of paternally expressed genes (PEGs) predominantly depends on PcG proteins. While maternal alleles of MEGs are also targeted by PcG proteins, such targeting does not cause complete repression. Candidate MEGs and PEGs are enriched for cis-proximal transposons, suggesting that transposons might be a driving force for the evolution of imprinted genes in Arabidopsis. In addition, we find that MEGs and PEGs are significantly faster evolving when compared to other genes in the genome. In contrast to the predominant location of mammalian imprinted genes in clusters, cluster formation was only detected for few MEGs and PEGs, suggesting that clustering is not a major requirement for imprinted gene regulation in Arabidopsis.
Author Summary
Genomic imprinting poses a violation to the Mendelian rules of inheritance, which state functional equality of maternally and paternally inherited alleles. Imprinted genes are expressed dependent on their parent-of-origin, implicating an epigenetic asymmetry of maternal and paternal alleles. Genomic imprinting occurs in mammals and flowering plants. In both groups of organisms, nourishing of the progeny depends on ephemeral tissues, the placenta and the endosperm, respectively. In plants, genomic imprinting predominantly occurs in the endosperm, which is derived after fertilization of the diploid central cell with a haploid sperm cell. In this study we identify more than 60 potentially imprinted genes and show that there are different epigenetic mechanisms causing maternal and paternal-specific gene expression. We show that maternally expressed genes are regulated by DNA methylation or Polycomb group (PcG)-mediated repression, while paternally expressed genes are predominantly regulated by PcG proteins. From an evolutionary perspective, we also show that imprinted genes are associated with transposons and are more rapidly evolving than other genes in the genome. Many MEGs and PEGs encode for transcriptional regulators, implicating important functional roles of imprinted genes for endosperm and seed development.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002126
PMCID: PMC3116908  PMID: 21698132
4.  Identification of the Imprinted KLF14 Transcription Factor Undergoing Human-Specific Accelerated Evolution  
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(5):e65.
Imprinted genes are expressed in a parent-of-origin manner and are located in clusters throughout the genome. Aberrations in the expression of imprinted genes on human Chromosome 7 have been suggested to play a role in the etiologies of Russell-Silver Syndrome and autism. We describe the imprinting of KLF14, an intronless member of the Krüppel-like family of transcription factors located at Chromosome 7q32. We show that it has monoallelic maternal expression in all embryonic and extra-embryonic tissues studied, in both human and mouse. We examine epigenetic modifications in the KLF14 CpG island in both species and find this region to be hypomethylated. In addition, we perform chromatin immunoprecipitation and find that the murine Klf14 CpG island lacks allele-specific histone modifications. Despite the absence of these defining features, our analysis of Klf14 in offspring from DNA methyltransferase 3a conditional knockout mice reveals that the gene's expression is dependent upon a maternally methylated region. Due to the intronless nature of Klf14 and its homology to Klf16, we suggest that the gene is an ancient retrotransposed copy of Klf16. By sequence analysis of numerous species, we place the timing of this event after the divergence of Marsupialia, yet prior to the divergence of the Xenarthra superclade. We identify a large number of sequence variants in KLF14 and, using several measures of diversity, we determine that there is greater variability in the human lineage with a significantly increased number of nonsynonymous changes, suggesting human-specific accelerated evolution. Thus, KLF14 may be the first example of an imprinted transcript undergoing accelerated evolution in the human lineage.
Author Summary
Imprinted genes are expressed in a parent-of-origin manner, where one of the two inherited copies of the imprinted gene is silenced. Aberrations in the expression of these genes, which generally regulate growth, are associated with various developmental disorders, emphasizing the importance of their discovery and analysis. In this study, we identify a novel imprinted gene, named KLF14, on human Chromosome 7. It is predicted to bind DNA and regulate transcription and was shown to be expressed from the maternally inherited chromosome in all human and mouse tissues examined. Surprisingly, we did not identify molecular signatures generally associated with imprinted regions, such as DNA methylation. Additionally, the identification of numerous DNA sequence variants led to an in-depth analysis of the gene's evolution. It was determined that there is greater variability in KLF14 in the human lineage, when compared to other primates, with a significantly increased number of polymorphisms encoding for changes at the protein level, suggesting human-specific accelerated evolution. As the first example of an imprinted transcript undergoing accelerated evolution in the human lineage, we propose that the accumulation of polymorphisms in KLF14 may be aided by the silencing of the inactive allele, allowing for stronger selection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030065
PMCID: PMC1865561  PMID: 17480121
5.  Genomic Imprinting Mechanisms in Mammals 
Mutation research  2008;647(1-2):77-85.
Genomic imprinting is a form of epigenetic gene regulation that results in expression from a single allele in a parent-of-origin-dependent manner. This form of monoallelic expression affects a small but growing number of genes and is essential to normal mammalian development. Despite extensive studies and some major breakthroughs regarding this intriguing phenomenon, we have not yet fully characterized the underlying molecular mechanisms of genomic imprinting. This is in part due to the complexity of the system in that the epigenetic markings required for proper imprinting must be established in the germline, maintained throughout development, and then erased before being re-established in the next generation’s germline. Furthermore, imprinted gene expression is often tissue or stage-specific. It has also become clear that while imprinted loci across the genome seem to rely consistently on epigenetic markings of DNA methylation and/or histone modifications to discern parental alleles, the regulatory activities underlying these markings vary among loci. Here, we discuss different modes of imprinting regulation in mammals and how perturbations of these systems result in human disease. We focus mostly on the mechanism of genomic imprinting mediated by insulators as is present at the H19/Igf2 locus, and by non-coding RNA present at the Igf2r and Kcnq1 loci. In addition to imprinting mechanisms at autosomal loci, what is known about imprinted X-chromosome inactivation and how it compares to autosomal imprinting is also discussed. Overall, this review summarizes the many years of imprinting research, while pointing out exciting new discoveries that further elucidate the mechanism of genomic imprinting, and speculating on areas that require further investigation.
doi:10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2008.08.008
PMCID: PMC2645997  PMID: 18778719
genomic imprinting; non-coding RNAs; insulators; imprinted X inactivation
6.  Comparative Anatomy of Chromosomal Domains with Imprinted and Non-Imprinted Allele-Specific DNA Methylation 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(8):e1003622.
Allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) is well studied in imprinted domains, but this type of epigenetic asymmetry is actually found more commonly at non-imprinted loci, where the ASM is dictated not by parent-of-origin but instead by the local haplotype. We identified loci with strong ASM in human tissues from methylation-sensitive SNP array data. Two index regions (bisulfite PCR amplicons), one between the C3orf27 and RPN1 genes in chromosome band 3q21 and the other near the VTRNA2-1 vault RNA in band 5q31, proved to be new examples of imprinted DMRs (maternal alleles methylated) while a third, between STEAP3 and C2orf76 in chromosome band 2q14, showed non-imprinted haplotype-dependent ASM. Using long-read bisulfite sequencing (bis-seq) in 8 human tissues we found that in all 3 domains the ASM is restricted to single differentially methylated regions (DMRs), each less than 2kb. The ASM in the C3orf27-RPN1 intergenic region was placenta-specific and associated with allele-specific expression of a long non-coding RNA. Strikingly, the discrete DMRs in all 3 regions overlap with binding sites for the insulator protein CTCF, which we found selectively bound to the unmethylated allele of the STEAP3-C2orf76 DMR. Methylation mapping in two additional genes with non-imprinted haplotype-dependent ASM, ELK3 and CYP2A7, showed that the CYP2A7 DMR also overlaps a CTCF site. Thus, two features of imprinted domains, highly localized DMRs and allele-specific insulator occupancy by CTCF, can also be found in chromosomal domains with non-imprinted ASM. Arguing for biological importance, our analysis of published whole genome bis-seq data from hES cells revealed multiple genome-wide association study (GWAS) peaks near CTCF binding sites with ASM.
Author Summary
Allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) is a central mechanism of gene regulation in humans, which can influence inter-individual differences in physical and mental traits and disease susceptibility. ASM is mediated either by parental imprinting, in which the repressed copy (allele) of the gene is determined by which type of parent (mother or father) transmitted it or, for a larger number of genes, by the local DNA sequence, independent of which parent transmitted it. Chromosomal regions with imprinted ASM have been well studied, and certain mechanistic principles, including the role of discrete differentially methylated regions (DMRs) and involvement of the insulator protein CTCF, have emerged. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying non-imprinted sequence-dependent ASM are not yet understood. Here we describe our detailed mapping of ASM across 5 gene regions, including two novel examples of imprinted ASM and three gene regions with non-imprinted, sequence-dependent ASM. Our data uncover shared molecular features – small discrete DMRs, and the binding of CTCF to these DMRs, in examples of both types of ASM. Combining ASM mapping with genetic association data suggests that sequence-dependent ASM at CTCF binding sites influences diverse human traits.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003622
PMCID: PMC3757050  PMID: 24009515
7.  Convergent and divergent evolution of genomic imprinting in the marsupial Monodelphis domestica 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:394.
Background
Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon resulting in parent-of-origin specific monoallelic gene expression. It is postulated to have evolved in placental mammals to modulate intrauterine resource allocation to the offspring. In this study, we determined the imprint status of metatherian orthologues of eutherian imprinted genes.
Results
L3MBTL and HTR2A were shown to be imprinted in Monodelphis domestica (the gray short-tailed opossum). MEST expressed a monoallelic and a biallelic transcript, as in eutherians. In contrast, IMPACT, COPG2, and PLAGL1 were not imprinted in the opossum. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) involved in regulating imprinting in eutherians were not found at any of the new imprinted loci in the opossum. Interestingly, a novel DMR was identified in intron 11 of the imprinted IGF2R gene, but this was not conserved in eutherians. The promoter regions of the imprinted genes in the opossum were enriched for the activating histone modification H3 Lysine 4 dimethylation.
Conclusions
The phenomenon of genomic imprinting is conserved in Therians, but the marked difference in the number and location of imprinted genes and DMRs between metatherians and eutherians indicates that imprinting is not fully conserved between the two Therian infra-classes. The identification of a novel DMR at a non-conserved location as well as the first demonstration of histone modifications at imprinted loci in the opossum suggest that genomic imprinting may have evolved in a common ancestor of these two Therian infra-classes with subsequent divergence of regulatory mechanisms in the two lineages.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-394
PMCID: PMC3507640  PMID: 22899817
Genomic imprinting; Marsupials; Eutherians
8.  Genomic imprinting and environmental disease susceptibility. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2000;108(3):271-278.
Genomic imprinting is one of the most intriguing subtleties of modern genetics. The term "imprinting" refers to parent-of-origin-dependent gene expression. The presence of imprinted genes can cause cells with a full parental complement of functional autosomal genes to specifically express one allele but not the other, resulting in monoallelic expression of the imprinted loci. Genomic imprinting plays a critical role in fetal growth and behavioral development, and it is regulated by DNA methylation and chromatin structure. This paper summarizes the Genomic Imprinting and Environmental Disease Susceptibility Conference held 8-10 October 1998 at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. The conference focused on the importance of genomic imprinting in determining susceptibility to environmentally induced diseases. Conference topics included rationales for imprinting: parental antagonism and speciation; methods for imprinted gene identification: allelic message display and monochromosomal mouse/human hybrids; properties of the imprinted gene cluster human 11p15.5 and mouse distal 7; the epigenetics of X-chromosome inactivation; variability in imprinting: imprint erasure, non-Mendelian inheritance ratios, and polymorphic imprinting; imprinting and behavior: genetics of bipolar disorder, imprinting in Turner syndrome, and imprinting in brain development and social behavior; and aberrant methylation: methylation and chromatin structure, methylation and estrogen exposure, methylation of tumor-suppressor genes, and cancer susceptibility. Environmental factors are capable of causing epigenetic changes in DNA that can potentially alter imprint gene expression and that can result in genetic diseases including cancer and behavioral disorders. Understanding the contribution of imprinting to the regulation of gene expression will be an important step in evaluating environmental influences on human health and disease.
PMCID: PMC1637980  PMID: 10706535
9.  A Genome-Wide Survey of Imprinted Genes in Rice Seeds Reveals Imprinting Primarily Occurs in the Endosperm 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002125.
Genomic imprinting causes the expression of an allele depending on its parental origin. In plants, most imprinted genes have been identified in Arabidopsis endosperm, a transient structure consumed by the embryo during seed formation. We identified imprinted genes in rice seed where both the endosperm and embryo are present at seed maturity. RNA was extracted from embryos and endosperm of seeds obtained from reciprocal crosses between two subspecies Nipponbare (Japonica rice) and 93-11 (Indica rice). Sequenced reads from cDNA libraries were aligned to their respective parental genomes using single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Reads across SNPs enabled derivation of parental expression bias ratios. A continuum of parental expression bias states was observed. Statistical analyses indicated 262 candidate imprinted loci in the endosperm and three in the embryo (168 genic and 97 non-genic). Fifty-six of the 67 loci investigated were confirmed to be imprinted in the seed. Imprinted loci are not clustered in the rice genome as found in mammals. All of these imprinted loci were expressed in the endosperm, and one of these was also imprinted in the embryo, confirming that in both rice and Arabidopsis imprinted expression is primarily confined to the endosperm. Some rice imprinted genes were also expressed in vegetative tissues, indicating that they have additional roles in plant growth. Comparison of candidate imprinted genes found in rice with imprinted candidate loci obtained from genome-wide surveys of imprinted genes in Arabidopsis to date shows a low degree of conservation, suggesting that imprinting has evolved independently in eudicots and monocots.
Author Summary
The expression of maternal or paternal alleles in either a preferentially or exclusively uniparental manner, termed imprinting, is prevalent in the transient endosperm of seeds in the model plant Arabidopsis. Cereals form seeds where both the embryo and endosperm are present at seed maturity. They are an important world food source. To date, very few imprinted genes have been identified in cereal seeds. How parental gene expression biases contribute to rice seed development has not yet been studied in detail. The deep resolution of transcript sequencing platforms was used to identify loci expressed in a parentally biased manner in the embryo and endosperm of Indica and Japonica rice at a genome-wide level. We identified 262 candidate imprinted loci expressed in the endosperm, experimentally verified 56 of these, and found novel features pertaining to their expression. Only one gene was found to be imprinted in the rice embryo. Imprinting in Arabidopsis and rice seeds is confined primarily to the endosperm, but the identified loci do not share extensive sequence conservation. Imprinting thus appears to have evolved independently in these plant species.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002125
PMCID: PMC3121744  PMID: 21731498
10.  The Parental Non-Equivalence of Imprinting Control Regions during Mammalian Development and Evolution 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(11):e1001214.
In mammals, imprinted gene expression results from the sex-specific methylation of imprinted control regions (ICRs) in the parental germlines. Imprinting is linked to therian reproduction, that is, the placenta and imprinting emerged at roughly the same time and potentially co-evolved. We assessed the transcriptome-wide and ontology effect of maternally versus paternally methylated ICRs at the developmental stage of setting of the chorioallantoic placenta in the mouse (8.5dpc), using two models of imprinting deficiency including completely imprint-free embryos. Paternal and maternal imprints have a similar quantitative impact on the embryonic transcriptome. However, transcriptional effects of maternal ICRs are qualitatively focused on the fetal-maternal interface, while paternal ICRs weakly affect non-convergent biological processes, with little consequence for viability at 8.5dpc. Moreover, genes regulated by maternal ICRs indirectly influence genes regulated by paternal ICRs, while the reverse is not observed. The functional dominance of maternal imprints over early embryonic development is potentially linked to selection pressures favoring methylation-dependent control of maternal over paternal ICRs. We previously hypothesized that the different methylation histories of ICRs in the maternal versus the paternal germlines may have put paternal ICRs under higher mutational pressure to lose CpGs by deamination. Using comparative genomics of 17 extant mammalian species, we show here that, while ICRs in general have been constrained to maintain more CpGs than non-imprinted sequences, the rate of CpG loss at paternal ICRs has indeed been higher than at maternal ICRs during evolution. In fact, maternal ICRs, which have the characteristics of CpG-rich promoters, have gained CpGs compared to non-imprinted CpG-rich promoters. Thus, the numerical and, during early embryonic development, functional dominance of maternal ICRs can be explained as the consequence of two orthogonal evolutionary forces: pressure to tightly regulate genes affecting the fetal-maternal interface and pressure to avoid the mutagenic environment of the paternal germline.
Author Summary
In mammals, a subset of genes is expressed from only one chromosomal copy, depending on its parental origin. This process, known as genomic imprinting, results from DNA methylation marks deposited in gametes at regulatory sequences called imprinting control regions (ICRs). Most of the DNA methylation controlling imprinting is established in the oocyte, while very few ICRs are methylated in the sperm. We provided insight into the impact and origins of the parental imbalance in genomic imprinting control. We defined the transcriptome-wide effect of imprinting, during the transition period when the embryo becomes dependent upon maternal resources. We found that maternal ICRs have a vital effect on developmental pathways related to the mother-to-fetus exchanges, while paternal ICRs have a dispersed and non-significant effect at that stage. We evidenced that paternal ICRs are lost at a much faster rate than maternal ICRs during mammalian evolution, probably as a mechanistic consequence of different kinetics of the parental germlines. Our results support the notion that two independent evolutionary forces have led to the numerical and functional dominance of maternal ICRs: a selective advantage of parent-specific regulation of genes important for the fetal-maternal interface and pressure to avoid the mutagenic environment of the paternal germline.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001214
PMCID: PMC2987832  PMID: 21124941
11.  Identification of imprinted genes subject to parent-of-origin specific expression in Arabidopsis thaliana seeds 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:113.
Background
Epigenetic regulation of gene dosage by genomic imprinting of some autosomal genes facilitates normal reproductive development in both mammals and flowering plants. While many imprinted genes have been identified and intensively studied in mammals, smaller numbers have been characterized in flowering plants, mostly in Arabidopsis thaliana. Identification of additional imprinted loci in flowering plants by genome-wide screening for parent-of-origin specific uniparental expression in seed tissues will facilitate our understanding of the origins and functions of imprinted genes in flowering plants.
Results
cDNA-AFLP can detect allele-specific expression that is parent-of-origin dependent for expressed genes in which restriction site polymorphisms exist in the transcripts derived from each allele. Using a genome-wide cDNA-AFLP screen surveying allele-specific expression of 4500 transcript-derived fragments, we report the identification of 52 maternally expressed genes (MEGs) displaying parent-of-origin dependent expression patterns in Arabidopsis siliques containing F1 hybrid seeds (3, 4 and 5 days after pollination). We identified these MEGs by developing a bioinformatics tool (GenFrag) which can directly determine the identities of transcript-derived fragments from (i) their size and (ii) which selective nucleotides were added to the primers used to generate them. Hence, GenFrag facilitates increased throughput for genome-wide cDNA-AFLP fragment analyses. The 52 MEGs we identified were further filtered for high expression levels in the endosperm relative to the seed coat to identify the candidate genes most likely representing novel imprinted genes expressed in the endosperm of Arabidopsis thaliana. Expression in seed tissues of the three top-ranked candidate genes, ATCDC48, PDE120 and MS5-like, was confirmed by Laser-Capture Microdissection and qRT-PCR analysis. Maternal-specific expression of these genes in Arabidopsis thaliana F1 seeds was confirmed via allele-specific transcript analysis across a range of different accessions. Differentially methylated regions were identified adjacent to ATCDC48 and PDE120, which may represent candidate imprinting control regions. Finally, we demonstrate that expression levels of these three genes in vegetative tissues are MET1-dependent, while their uniparental maternal expression in the seed is not dependent on MET1.
Conclusions
Using a cDNA-AFLP transcriptome profiling approach, we have identified three genes, ATCDC48, PDE120 and MS5-like which represent novel maternally expressed imprinted genes in the Arabidopsis thaliana seed. The extent of overlap between our cDNA-AFLP screen for maternally expressed imprinted genes, and other screens for imprinted and endosperm-expressed genes is discussed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2229-11-113
PMCID: PMC3174879  PMID: 21838868
12.  An Unbiased Assessment of the Role of Imprinted Genes in an Intergenerational Model of Developmental Programming 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(4):e1002605.
Environmental factors during early life are critical for the later metabolic health of the individual and of future progeny. In our obesogenic environment, it is of great socioeconomic importance to investigate the mechanisms that contribute to the risk of metabolic ill health. Imprinted genes, a class of functionally mono-allelic genes critical for early growth and metabolic axis development, have been proposed to be uniquely susceptible to environmental change. Furthermore, it has also been suggested that perturbation of the epigenetic reprogramming of imprinting control regions (ICRs) may play a role in phenotypic heritability following early life insults. Alternatively, the presence of multiple layers of epigenetic regulation may in fact protect imprinted genes from such perturbation. Unbiased investigation of these alternative hypotheses requires assessment of imprinted gene expression in the context of the response of the whole transcriptome to environmental assault. We therefore analyse the role of imprinted genes in multiple tissues in two affected generations of an established murine model of the developmental origins of health and disease using microarrays and quantitative RT–PCR. We demonstrate that, despite the functional mono-allelicism of imprinted genes and their unique mechanisms of epigenetic dosage control, imprinted genes as a class are neither more susceptible nor protected from expression perturbation induced by maternal undernutrition in either the F1 or the F2 generation compared to other genes. Nor do we find any evidence that the epigenetic reprogramming of ICRs in the germline is susceptible to nutritional restriction. However, we propose that those imprinted genes that are affected may play important roles in the foetal response to undernutrition and potentially its long-term sequelae. We suggest that recently described instances of dosage regulation by relaxation of imprinting are rare and likely to be highly regulated.
Author Summary
Environmental perturbations during early life are known to affect one's risk of metabolic disease many years later. Furthermore, that risk can be inherited by future generations, although the mechanisms responsible are poorly understood. Imprinted genes are unusual as only one of the two copies is expressed in a parent-of-origin–specific manner. As only one copy is active, imprinted gene dosage has been hypothesised to be uniquely vulnerable to environmental change. Therefore, it has been suggested that imprinted genes may play an important role in the developmental origins of health and disease. Alternatively, the opposite may be true—imprinted genes may be more tightly safeguarded from perturbation. To test these two hypotheses, we analysed the expression of imprinted genes in the context of all active genes in two affected generations of a mouse model of the developmental origins of health and disease. Our data show that imprinted genes as a class are neither more nor less susceptible to expression change, but a subset of imprinted genes may be involved in the adaptation of the conceptus. Furthermore, imprints in the developing germline are not affected and imprinted genes are largely stable in the second generation. This is important, as it is the first time that this hypothesis has been tested in an unbiased fashion.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002605
PMCID: PMC3325178  PMID: 22511876
13.  Natural epigenetic polymorphisms lead to intraspecific variation in Arabidopsis gene imprinting 
eLife  2014;3:e03198.
Imprinted gene expression occurs during seed development in plants and is associated with differential DNA methylation of parental alleles, particularly at proximal transposable elements (TEs). Imprinting variability could contribute to observed parent-of-origin effects on seed development. We investigated intraspecific variation in imprinting, coupled with analysis of DNA methylation and small RNAs, among three Arabidopsis strains with diverse seed phenotypes. The majority of imprinted genes were parentally biased in the same manner among all strains. However, we identified several examples of allele-specific imprinting correlated with intraspecific epigenetic variation at a TE. We successfully predicted imprinting in additional strains based on methylation variability. We conclude that there is standing variation in imprinting even in recently diverged genotypes due to intraspecific epiallelic variation. Our data demonstrate that epiallelic variation and genomic imprinting intersect to produce novel gene expression patterns in seeds.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.03198.001
eLife digest
When animals or plants reproduce sexually, the DNA in a sperm or pollen is combined with that in an egg cell to generate an offspring that inherits two copies of each gene, one from each parent. For a very small number of genes, the copy from one of the parents is consistently turned off. This process—called imprinting—means that the same gene can have different effects depending on if it is inherited from the mother or the father. In plants, imprinting is vital for the production of seeds and typically occurs in the endosperm: the tissue within a seed that provides nourishment to the plant embryo.
One way genes can be imprinted is by adding small chemical marks—called methyl groups—on to the DNA that makes up the gene or nearby sequences. These marks can either switch on, or switch off, the expression of the gene. DNA methylation also immobilises stretches of DNA called transposable elements, stopping them from moving from one location to another in the genome. These stretches of DNA are identified and targeted for methylation by small molecules of RNA that match their DNA sequences.
Genes that are imprinted in the endosperm of the model plant Arabidopsis are often associated with transposable elements, which can be methylated differently in the naturally occurring varieties, or strains, of Arabidopsis. However it is unclear how many genes are differently imprinted between these different strains.
Pignatta et al. looked for differences in gene imprinting, DNA methylation and small RNA production in the seeds, embryos and endosperm tissue from three strains of Arabidopsis. They also examined seeds from crosses between these three strains.
While most genes had the same imprinting pattern in all strains and crosses examined, 12 genes were imprinted differently depending on whether they were inherited from the male or female of a given strain. For example, for some genes the copy inherited from the male parent is always turned off, unless it is inherited via the pollen of one specific Arabidopsis strain. Half of this variation could be explained by a transposable element near to each gene that was methylated differently among the strains.
By comparing the differentially methylated regions in the genomes of 140 Arabidopsis strains, Pignatta et al. found that differences in methylation may affect 11% of imprinted genes—and went on to confirm variable imprinting in some Arabidopsis strains based on the presence or absence of DNA methylation.
Future work is needed to understand how variation in gene imprinting might affect the traits of hybrid seeds, and how it might affect the evolution of new traits in hybrid plants.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.03198.002
doi:10.7554/eLife.03198
PMCID: PMC4115658  PMID: 24994762
genomic imprinting; DNA methylation; natural variation; epialleles; transposable elements; seeds; Arabidopsis
14.  The IG-DMR and the MEG3-DMR at Human Chromosome 14q32.2: Hierarchical Interaction and Distinct Functional Properties as Imprinting Control Centers 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(6):e1000992.
Human chromosome 14q32.2 harbors the germline-derived primary DLK1-MEG3 intergenic differentially methylated region (IG-DMR) and the postfertilization-derived secondary MEG3-DMR, together with multiple imprinted genes. Although previous studies in cases with microdeletions and epimutations affecting both DMRs and paternal/maternal uniparental disomy 14-like phenotypes argue for a critical regulatory function of the two DMRs for the 14q32.2 imprinted region, the precise role of the individual DMR remains to be clarified. We studied an infant with upd(14)pat body and placental phenotypes and a heterozygous microdeletion involving the IG-DMR alone (patient 1) and a neonate with upd(14)pat body, but no placental phenotype and a heterozygous microdeletion involving the MEG3-DMR alone (patient 2). The results generated from the analysis of these two patients imply that the IG-DMR and the MEG3-DMR function as imprinting control centers in the placenta and the body, respectively, with a hierarchical interaction for the methylation pattern in the body governed by the IG-DMR. To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating an essential long-range imprinting regulatory function for the secondary DMR.
Author Summary
Genomic imprinting is a process causing genes to be expressed in a parent-of-origin specific manner—some imprinted genes are expressed from maternally inherited chromosomes and others from paternally inherited chromosomes. Imprinted genes are often located in clusters regulated by regions that are differentially methylated according to their parental origin. The human chromosome 14q32.2 imprinted region harbors the germline-derived primary DLK1-MEG3 intergenic differentially methylated region (IG-DMR) and the postfertilization-derived secondary MEG3-DMR, together with multiple imprinted genes. Perturbed dosage of these imprinted genes, for example in patients with paternal and maternal uniparental disomy 14, causes distinct phenotypes. Here, through analysis of patients with microdeletions recapitulating some or all of the uniparental disomy 14 phenotypes, we show that the IG-DMR acts as an upstream regulator for the methylation pattern of the MEG3-DMR in the body but not in the placenta. Importantly, in the body, the MEG3-DMR functions as an imprinting control center. To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating an essential function for the secondary DMR in the regulation of multiple imprinted genes. Thus, the results provide a significant advance in the clarification of underlying epigenetic features that can act to regulate imprinting.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000992
PMCID: PMC2887472  PMID: 20585555
15.  Critical Evaluation of Imprinted Gene Expression by RNA–Seq: A New Perspective 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(3):e1002600.
In contrast to existing estimates of approximately 200 murine imprinted genes, recent work based on transcriptome sequencing uncovered parent-of-origin allelic effects at more than 1,300 loci in the developing brain and two adult brain regions, including hundreds present in only males or females. Our independent replication of the embryonic brain stage, where the majority of novel imprinted genes were discovered and the majority of previously known imprinted genes confirmed, resulted in only 12.9% concordance among the novel imprinted loci. Further analysis and pyrosequencing-based validation revealed that the vast majority of the novel reported imprinted loci are false-positives explained by technical and biological variation of the experimental approach. We show that allele-specific expression (ASE) measured with RNA–Seq is not accurately modeled with statistical methods that assume random independent sampling and that systematic error must be accounted for to enable accurate identification of imprinted expression. Application of a robust approach that accounts for these effects revealed 50 candidate genes where allelic bias was predicted to be parent-of-origin–dependent. However, 11 independent validation attempts through a range of allelic expression biases confirmed only 6 of these novel cases. The results emphasize the importance of independent validation and suggest that the number of imprinted genes is much closer to the initial estimates.
Author Summary
Typically both copies of mammalian genes are expressed, but in some cases, “imprinting” restricts expression to the maternal or paternal copy. Having two copies of each gene is considered advantageous since in enables compensation when one does not function properly. Why imprinting evolved and its utility to each sex is widely debated, and having a complete catalog of imprinted genes and their functions is essential for fully characterizing this phenomenon. 25 years of screening has revealed about 130 imprinted genes, and the slowing rate of discovery suggests that we are reaching saturation. Two recent studies based on high-throughput sequencing of RNA reported more than 1,300 imprinted genes. To understand the basis of this paradigm shift, we first attempted to reproduce these results. Unable to do so, we performed additional analyses that show that most of these discoveries are due to noise in the experimental approach and assay. We remedy this with new methods that account for this noise and applied them to identify 50 novel putative imprinted genes. These methods will be useful for identifying genuine novel cases of imprinted expression as this type of screening approach becomes broadly utilized.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002600
PMCID: PMC3315459  PMID: 22479196
16.  EXTRA-EMBRYONIC-SPECIFIC IMPRINTED EXPRESSION IS RESTRICTED TO DEFINED LINEAGES IN THE POST-IMPLANTATION EMBRYO 
Developmental biology  2011;353(2):420-431.
A subset of imprinted genes in the mouse have been reported to show imprinted expression that is restricted to the placenta, a short-lived extra-embryonic organ. Notably these so-called 'placental-specific' imprinted genes are expressed from both parental alleles in embryo and adult tissues. The placenta is an embryonic-derived organ that is closely associated with maternal tissue and as a consequence, maternal contamination can be mistaken for maternal-specific imprinted expression. The complexity of the placenta, which arises from multiple embryonic lineages, poses additional problems in accurately assessing allele-specific repressive epigenetic modifications in genes that also show lineage-specific silencing in this organ. These problems require that extra evidence be obtained to support the imprinted status of genes whose imprinted expression is restricted to the placenta. We show here that the extra-embryonic visceral yolk sac (VYS), a nutritive membrane surrounding the developing embryo, shows a similar 'extra-embryonic-lineage-specific' pattern of imprinted expression. We present an improved enzymatic technique for separating the bilaminar VYS and show that this pattern of imprinted expression is restricted to the endoderm layer. Finally, we show that VYS 'extra-embryonic-lineage-specific' imprinted expression is regulated by DNA methylation in a similar manner as shown for genes showing multi-lineage imprinted expression in extra-embryonic, embryonic and adult tissues. These results show that the VYS is an improved model for studying the epigenetic mechanisms regulating extra-embryonic-lineage-specific imprinted expression.
doi:10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.02.017
PMCID: PMC3081948  PMID: 21354127
genomic imprinting; placenta; yolk sac; non-coding RNA; insulator
17.  The interval between Ins2 and Ascl2 is dispensable for imprinting centre function in the murine Beckwith-Wiedemann region 
Human molecular genetics  2009;18(22):10.1093/hmg/ddp379.
Imprinted genes are commonly clustered in domains across the mammalian genome, suggesting a degree of coregulation via long-range coordination of their monoallelic transcription. The distal end of mouse chromosome 7 contains two clusters of imprinted genes within a ~1 Mb domain. This region is conserved on human 11q15.5 where it is implicated in the Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. In both species, imprinted regulation requires two critical cis-acting imprinting centres, carrying different germline epigenetic marks and mediating imprinted expression in the proximal and distal sub-domains. The clusters are separated by a region containing the gene for tyrosine hydroxylase (Th) as well as a high density of short repeats and retrotransposons in the mouse. We have used the Cre-loxP recombination system in vivo to engineer an interstitial deletion of this ~280-kb intervening region previously proposed to participate in the imprinting mechanism or to act as a boundary between the two sub-domains. The deletion allele, Del7AI, is silent with respect to epigenetic marking at the two flanking imprinting centres. Reciprocal inheritance of Del7AI demonstrates that the deleted region, which represents more than a quarter of the previously defined imprinted domain, is associated with intrauterine growth restriction in maternal heterozygotes. In homozygotes, the deficiency behaves as a Th null allele and can be rescued pharmacologically by bypassing the metabolic requirement for TH in utero. Our results show that the deleted interval is not required for normal imprinting on distal Chr 7 and uncover a new imprinted growth phenotype.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddp379
PMCID: PMC3817080  PMID: 19684026 CAMSID: cams3629
18.  DNMT1 and AIM1 Imprinting in human placenta revealed through a genome-wide screen for allele-specific DNA methylation 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:685.
Background
Genomic imprinting is an epigenetically regulated process wherein genes are expressed in a parent-of-origin specific manner. Many imprinted genes were initially identified in mice; some of these were subsequently shown not to be imprinted in humans. Such discrepancy reflects developmental, morphological and physiological differences between mouse and human tissues. This is particularly relevant for the placenta. Study of genomic imprinting thus needs to be carried out in a species and developmental stage-specific manner. We describe here a new strategy to study allele-specific DNA methylation in the human placenta for the discovery of novel imprinted genes.
Results
Using this methodology, we confirmed 16 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) associated with known imprinted genes. We chose 28 genomic regions for further testing and identified two imprinted genes (DNMT1 and AIM1). Both genes showed maternal allele-specific methylation and paternal allele-specific transcription. Imprinted expression for AIM1 was conserved in the cynomolgus macaque placenta, but not in other macaque tissues or in the mouse.
Conclusions
Our study indicates that while there are many genomic regions with allele-specific methylation in tissues like the placenta, only a small sub-set of them are associated with allele-specific transcription, suggesting alternative functions for such genomic regions. Nonetheless, novel tissue-specific imprinted genes remain to be discovered in humans. Their identification may help us better understand embryonic and fetal development.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-685
PMCID: PMC3829101  PMID: 24094292
Genomic imprinting; Placenta; Next generation sequencing; Differentially Methylated Region (DMR); DNMT1; AIM1
19.  Genome-wide histone state profiling of fibroblasts from the opossum, Monodelphis domestica, identifies the first marsupial-specific imprinted gene 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:89.
Background
Imprinted genes have been extensively documented in eutherian mammals and found to exhibit significant interspecific variation in the suites of genes that are imprinted and in their regulation between tissues and developmental stages. Much less is known about imprinted loci in metatherian (marsupial) mammals, wherein studies have been limited to a small number of genes previously known to be imprinted in eutherians. We describe the first ab initio search for imprinted marsupial genes, in fibroblasts from the opossum, Monodelphis domestica, based on a genome-wide ChIP-seq strategy to identify promoters that are simultaneously marked by mutually exclusive, transcriptionally opposing histone modifications.
Results
We identified a novel imprinted gene (Meis1) and two additional monoallelically expressed genes, one of which (Cstb) showed allele-specific, but non-imprinted expression. Imprinted vs. allele-specific expression could not be resolved for the third monoallelically expressed gene (Rpl17). Transcriptionally opposing histone modifications H3K4me3, H3K9Ac, and H3K9me3 were found at the promoters of all three genes, but differential DNA methylation was not detected at CpG islands at any of these promoters.
Conclusions
In generating the first genome-wide histone modification profiles for a marsupial, we identified the first gene that is imprinted in a marsupial but not in eutherian mammals. This outcome demonstrates the practicality of an ab initio discovery strategy and implicates histone modification, but not differential DNA methylation, as a conserved mechanism for marking imprinted genes in all therian mammals. Our findings suggest that marsupials use multiple epigenetic mechanisms for imprinting and support the concept that lineage-specific selective forces can produce sets of imprinted genes that differ between metatherian and eutherian lines.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-89
PMCID: PMC3912494  PMID: 24484454
Genomic imprinting; Monoallelic expression; Histone modification; ChIP-seq; Monodelphis domestica; Marsupial
20.  High-throughput analysis of candidate imprinted genes and allele-specific gene expression in the human term placenta 
BMC Genetics  2010;11:25.
Background
Imprinted genes show expression from one parental allele only and are important for development and behaviour. This extreme mode of allelic imbalance has been described for approximately 56 human genes. Imprinting status is often disrupted in cancer and dysmorphic syndromes. More subtle variation of gene expression, that is not parent-of-origin specific, termed 'allele-specific gene expression' (ASE) is more common and may give rise to milder phenotypic differences. Using two allele-specific high-throughput technologies alongside bioinformatics predictions, normal term human placenta was screened to find new imprinted genes and to ascertain the extent of ASE in this tissue.
Results
Twenty-three family trios of placental cDNA, placental genomic DNA (gDNA) and gDNA from both parents were tested for 130 candidate genes with the Sequenom MassArray system. Six genes were found differentially expressed but none imprinted. The Illumina ASE BeadArray platform was then used to test 1536 SNPs in 932 genes. The array was enriched for the human orthologues of 124 mouse candidate genes from bioinformatics predictions and 10 human candidate imprinted genes from EST database mining. After quality control pruning, a total of 261 informative SNPs (214 genes) remained for analysis. Imprinting with maternal expression was demonstrated for the lymphocyte imprinted gene ZNF331 in human placenta. Two potential differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were found in the vicinity of ZNF331. None of the bioinformatically predicted candidates tested showed imprinting except for a skewed allelic expression in a parent-specific manner observed for PHACTR2, a neighbour of the imprinted PLAGL1 gene. ASE was detected for two or more individuals in 39 candidate genes (18%).
Conclusions
Both Sequenom and Illumina assays were sensitive enough to study imprinting and strong allelic bias. Previous bioinformatics approaches were not predictive of new imprinted genes in the human term placenta. ZNF331 is imprinted in human term placenta and might be a new ubiquitously imprinted gene, part of a primate-specific locus. Demonstration of partial imprinting of PHACTR2 calls for re-evaluation of the allelic pattern of expression for the PHACTR2-PLAGL1 locus. ASE was common in human term placenta.
doi:10.1186/1471-2156-11-25
PMCID: PMC2871261  PMID: 20403199
21.  Natural breaking of the maternal silence at the mouse and human imprinted Prader-Willi locus 
Rare Diseases  2013;1:e27228.
Genomic imprinting is a normal process of epigenetic regulation leading some autosomal genes to be expressed from one parental allele only, the other parental allele being silenced. The reasons why this mechanism has been selected throughout evolution are not clear; however, expression dosage is critical for imprinted genes. There is a paradox between the fact that genomic imprinting is a robust mechanism controlling the expression of specific genes and the fact that this mechanism is based on epigenetic regulation that, per se, should present some flexibility. The robustness has been well studied, revealing the epigenetic modifications at the imprinted locus, but the flexibility has been poorly investigated.
 
Prader-Willi syndrome is the best-studied disease involving imprinted genes caused by the absence of expression of paternally inherited alleles of genes located in the human 15q11-q13 region. Until now, the silencing of the maternally inherited alleles was like a dogma. Rieusset et al. showed that in absence of the paternal Ndn allele, in Ndn +m/-p mice, the maternal Ndn allele is expressed at an extremely low level with a high degree of non-genetic heterogeneity. In about 50% of these mutant mice, this stochastic expression reduces birth lethality and severity of the breathing deficiency, correlated with a reduction in the loss of serotonergic neurons. Furthermore, using several mouse models, they reveal a competition between non-imprinted Ndn promoters, which results in monoallelic (paternal or maternal) Ndn expression, suggesting that Ndn monoallelic expression occurs in the absence of imprinting regulation. Importantly, specific expression of the maternal NDN allele is also detected in post-mortem brain samples of PWS individuals. Here, similar expression of the Magel2 maternal allele is reported in Magel2 +m/-p mice, suggesting that this loss of imprinting can be extended to other PWS genes. These data reveal an unexpected epigenetic flexibility of PWS imprinted genes that could be exploited to reactivate the functional but dormant maternal alleles in PWS.
doi:10.4161/rdis.27228
PMCID: PMC3978896  PMID: 25003016
imprinting; Prader-Willi; Necdin; Magel2; mouse model
22.  Successful Computational Prediction of Novel Imprinted Genes from Epigenomic Features▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(13):3357-3370.
Approximately 100 mouse genes undergo genomic imprinting, whereby one of the two parental alleles is epigenetically silenced. Imprinted genes influence processes including development, X chromosome inactivation, obesity, schizophrenia, and diabetes, motivating the identification of all imprinted loci. Local sequence features have been used to predict candidate imprinted genes, but rigorous testing using reciprocal crosses validated only three, one of which resided in previously identified imprinting clusters. Here we show that specific epigenetic features in mouse cells correlate with imprinting status in mice, and we identify hundreds of additional genes predicted to be imprinted in the mouse. We used a multitiered approach to validate imprinted expression, including use of a custom single nucleotide polymorphism array and traditional molecular methods. Of 65 candidates subjected to molecular assays for allele-specific expression, we found 10 novel imprinted genes that were maternally expressed in the placenta.
doi:10.1128/MCB.01355-09
PMCID: PMC2897571  PMID: 20421412
23.  Stochastic Loss of Silencing of the Imprinted Ndn/NDN Allele, in a Mouse Model and Humans with Prader-Willi Syndrome, Has Functional Consequences 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(9):e1003752.
Genomic imprinting is a process that causes genes to be expressed from one allele only according to parental origin, the other allele being silent. Diseases can arise when the normally active alleles are not expressed. In this context, low level of expression of the normally silent alleles has been considered as genetic noise although such expression has never been further studied. Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is a neurodevelopmental disease involving imprinted genes, including NDN, which are only expressed from the paternally inherited allele, with the maternally inherited allele silent. We present the first in-depth study of the low expression of a normally silent imprinted allele, in pathological context. Using a variety of qualitative and quantitative approaches and comparing wild-type, heterozygous and homozygous mice deleted for Ndn, we show that, in absence of the paternal Ndn allele, the maternal Ndn allele is expressed at an extremely low level with a high degree of non-genetic heterogeneity. The level of this expression is sex-dependent and shows transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. In about 50% of mutant mice, this expression reduces birth lethality and severity of the breathing deficiency, correlated with a reduction in the loss of serotonergic neurons. In wild-type brains, the maternal Ndn allele is never expressed. However, using several mouse models, we reveal a competition between non-imprinted Ndn promoters which results in monoallelic (paternal or maternal) Ndn expression, suggesting that Ndn allelic exclusion occurs in the absence of imprinting regulation. Importantly, specific expression of the maternal NDN allele is also detected in post-mortem brain samples of PWS individuals. Our data reveal an unexpected epigenetic flexibility of PWS imprinted genes that could be exploited to reactivate the functional but dormant maternal alleles in PWS. Overall our results reveal high non-genetic heterogeneity between genetically identical individuals that might underlie the variability of the phenotype.
Author Summary
Genomic imprinting is a process that causes genes to be expressed from only one of the two chromosomes, according to parental origin, the other copy of genes being silent. Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is a neurodevelopmental disease involving imprinted genes, including NDN, which are only expressed from the paternally inherited chromosome, the maternally inherited copy of the gene normally being silent. Here we show that, in absence of the paternal Ndn copy only, the maternal Ndn allele is expressed at an extremely low level with a high degree of heterogeneity. The level of this expression is dependent on both the sex of the offspring and the genotype of the mother. In about 50% of mutant mice, this expression reduces birth mortality and severity of the breathing deficiency, showing a functional role of this low expression. Importantly, specific expression of the maternal NDN allele is also detected in post-mortem brain samples of PWS individuals. Our data reveal an unexpected epigenetic flexibility of PWS imprinted genes that could be exploited to reactivate the functional but dormant maternal alleles in PWS. Overall our results reveal high non-genetic heterogeneity between genetically identical individuals that might contribute to variability in the phenotype.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003752
PMCID: PMC3764186  PMID: 24039599
24.  Genome-wide mapping of imprinted differentially methylated regions by DNA methylation profiling of human placentas from triploidies 
Background
Genomic imprinting is an important epigenetic process involved in regulating placental and foetal growth. Imprinted genes are typically associated with differentially methylated regions (DMRs) whereby one of the two alleles is DNA methylated depending on the parent of origin. Identifying imprinted DMRs in humans is complicated by species- and tissue-specific differences in imprinting status and the presence of multiple regulatory regions associated with a particular gene, only some of which may be imprinted. In this study, we have taken advantage of the unbalanced parental genomic constitutions in triploidies to further characterize human DMRs associated with known imprinted genes and identify novel imprinted DMRs.
Results
By comparing the promoter methylation status of over 14,000 genes in human placentas from ten diandries (extra paternal haploid set) and ten digynies (extra maternal haploid set) and using 6 complete hydatidiform moles (paternal origin) and ten chromosomally normal placentas for comparison, we identified 62 genes with apparently imprinted DMRs (false discovery rate <0.1%). Of these 62 genes, 11 have been reported previously as DMRs that act as imprinting control regions, and the observed parental methylation patterns were concordant with those previously reported. We demonstrated that novel imprinted genes, such as FAM50B, as well as novel imprinted DMRs associated with known imprinted genes (for example, CDKN1C and RASGRF1) can be identified by using this approach. Furthermore, we have demonstrated how comparison of DNA methylation for known imprinted genes (for example, GNAS and CDKN1C) between placentas of different gestations and other somatic tissues (brain, kidney, muscle and blood) provides a detailed analysis of specific CpG sites associated with tissue-specific imprinting and gestational age-specific methylation.
Conclusions
DNA methylation profiling of triploidies in different tissues and developmental ages can be a powerful and effective way to map and characterize imprinted regions in the genome.
doi:10.1186/1756-8935-4-10
PMCID: PMC3154142  PMID: 21749726
25.  Mammalian Genomic Imprinting 
Normal mammalian development requires a maternal and paternal contribution, which is attributed to imprinted genes, or genes that are expressed from a single parental allele. Approximately 100 imprinted genes have been reported in mammals thus far. Imprinted genes are controlled by cis-acting regulatory elements, termed imprinting control regions (ICRs), which have parental-specific epigenetic modifications, including DNA methylation. ICRs are methylated by de novo DNA methyltransferases during germline development; these parental-specific modifications must be maintained following fertilization when the genome is extensively reprogrammed. Many imprinted genes reside in ∼1-megabase clusters, with two major mechanisms of imprinting regulation currently recognized, CTCF-dependent insulators and long noncoding RNAs. Unclustered imprinted genes are generally regulated by germline-derived differential promoter methylation. Here, we describe the identification and functions of imprinted genes, cis-acting control sequences, trans-acting factors, and imprinting mechanisms in clusters. Finally, we define questions that require more extensive research.
Long noncoding RNAs and CTCF-dependent insulators regulate imprinted gene clusters. Differential promoter methylation regulates unclustered imprinted genes.
doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a002592
PMCID: PMC3119911  PMID: 21576252

Results 1-25 (1006655)