Genomic imprinting, the differential expression of autosomal genes based on their parent of origin, is observed in all eutherian mammals that have been examined. In most instances the genes that are imprinted in one species are imprinted in others as well, suggesting that imprinting predated eutherian radiation. For example, the RNA-coding H19 gene is repressed upon paternal inheritance in all species examined to date. Thus, it is surprising that there is remarkably little sequence conservation among the cis-acting DNA regulatory elements that are required for imprinting of H19 and the tightly linked Igf2 gene. The most conserved characteristic in the imprinting control region (ICR) is the presence of multiple binding sites for the zinc finger protein CTCF, raising the possibility that CTCF binding might be sufficient for the reciprocal imprinting of H19 and Igf2. To investigate whether a human H19 transgene, harboring seven CTCF sites, is correctly recognized and imprinted in the mouse, a 100 kb transgene containing the human H19 gene was introduced into the mouse germline. The human transgene was specifically methylated after passage through the male germline in a copy number-dependent manner, but the methylation was unstable, undergoing progressive loss during development. Consequently, the transgene was highly expressed upon both maternal and paternal inheritance. These results argue that the signals for both the acquisition and maintenance of methylation imprinting are diverging rapidly.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology