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Proc Biol Sci. 2002 Sep 7;269(1502):1841-6.

Parental modifiers, antisense transcripts and loss of imprinting.

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  • 1Program in Biophysics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. jfwilkin@fas.harvard.edu


The kinship theory of genomic imprinting has explained parent-specific gene expression as the outcome of an evolutionary conflict between the two alleles at a diploid locus of an offspring over how much to demand from parents. Previous models have predicted that maternally derived (madumnal) alleles will be silent at demand-enhancing loci, while paternally derived (padumnal) alleles will be silent at demand-suppressing loci, but these models have not considered the evolution of trans-acting modifiers that are expressed in parents and influence imprinted expression in offspring. We show that such modifiers will sometimes be selected to reactivate the silent padumnal allele at a demand-suppressing locus but will not be selected to reactivate the silent madumnal allele at a demand-enhancing locus. Therefore, imprinting of demand-suppressing loci is predicted to be less evolutionarily stable than imprinting of demand-enhancing loci.

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