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.
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.