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Trends Genet. 2001 Dec;17(12):705-11.

The epigenetic basis of gender in flowering plants and mammals.

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  • 1Dept of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, OX1 3RB, Oxford, UK.


What makes a sperm male or an egg female, and how can we tell? A gamete's gender could be defined in many ways, such as the sex of the individual or organ that produced it, its cellular morphology, or its behaviour at fertilization. In flowering plants and mammals, however, there is an extra dimension to the gender of a gamete--due to parental imprinting, some of the genes it contributes to the next generation will have different expression patterns depending on whether they were maternally or paternally transmitted. The non-equivalence of gamete genomes, along with natural and experimental modification of imprinting, reveal a level of sexual identity that we describe as 'epigender'. In this paper, we explore epigender in the life history of plants and animals, and its significance for reproduction and development.

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