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Hum Mol Genet. 2010 Oct 15;19(R2):R210-20. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddq376. Epub 2010 Sep 20.

Allele-specific DNA methylation: beyond imprinting.

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  • 1Institute for Cancer Genetics and Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Allele-specific DNA methylation (ASM) and allele-specific gene expression (ASE) have long been studied in genomic imprinting and X chromosome inactivation. But these types of allelic asymmetries, along with allele-specific transcription factor binding (ASTF), have turned out to be far more pervasive-affecting many non-imprinted autosomal genes in normal human tissues. ASM, ASE and ASTF have now been mapped genome-wide by microarray-based methods and NextGen sequencing. Multiple studies agree that all three types of allelic asymmetries, as well as the related phenomena of expression and methylation quantitative trait loci, are mostly accounted for by cis-acting regulatory polymorphisms. The precise mechanisms by which this occurs are not yet understood, but there are some testable hypotheses and already a few direct clues. Future challenges include achieving higher resolution maps to locate the epicenters of cis-regulated ASM, using this information to test mechanistic models, and applying genome-wide maps of ASE/ASM/ASTF to pinpoint functional regulatory polymorphisms influencing disease susceptibility.

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