THE mouse H19 gene encodes one of the most abundant RNAs in the developing mouse embryo1. It is expressed at the blastocyst stage of development, and accumulates to high levels in tissues of endodermal and mesodermal origin (H. Kim, unpublished result). After birth the gene is repressed in all tissues except skeletal muscle. It lacks a common open reading frame in the 2.5-kilobase RNA, but has considerable nucleotide sequence similarity between the genes of rodents and humans2,3. Expression of the gene in transgenic mice results in late prenatal lethality, suggesting that the dosage of its gene product is strictly controlled4. The H19 gene maps to the distal segment of mouse chromosome 7, in a region that is parentally imprinted5, a process by which genes are differentially expressed on the maternal and paternal chromosomes. We have now used an RNase protection assay that can distinguish between H19 alleles in four subspecies of Mus, to demonstrate that the H19 gene is parentally imprinted, with the active copy derived from the mother. This assay will be of general use in assaying allele-specific gene expression.
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