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Genetics. 1999 Apr;151(4):1503-16.

Genomic imprinting and position-effect variegation in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada.


Genomic imprinting is a phenomenon in which the expression of a gene or chromosomal region depends on the sex of the individual transmitting it. The term imprinting was first coined to describe parent-specific chromosome behavior in the dipteran insect Sciara and has since been described in many organisms, including other insects, plants, fish, and mammals. In this article we describe a mini-X chromosome in Drosophila melanogaster that shows genomic imprinting of at least three closely linked genes. The imprinting of these genes is observed as mosaic silencing when the genes are transmitted by the male parent, in contrast to essentially wild-type expression when the same genes are maternally transmitted. We show that the imprint is due to the sex of the parent rather than to a conventional maternal effect, differential mitotic instability of the mini-X chromosome, or an allele-specific effect. Finally, we have examined the effects of classical modifiers of position-effect variegation on the maintenance and the establishment of the imprint. Factors that modify position-effect variegation alter the somatic expression but not the establishment of the imprint. This suggests that chromatin structure is important in maintenance of the imprint, but a separate mechanism may be responsible for its initiation.

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