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Biol Chem. 1999 Jun;380(6):601-11.

Monoallelic expression of Pax5: a paradigm for the haploinsufficiency of mammalian Pax genes?

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Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna, Austria.


It is generally assumed that most mammalian genes are transcribed from both alleles. Hence, the diploid state of the genome offers the advantage that a loss-of-function mutation in one allele can be compensated for by the remaining wild-type allele of the same gene. Indeed, the vast majority of human disease syndromes and engineered mutations in the mouse genome are recessive, indicating that recessiveness is the 'default' state. However, a minority of genes are semi-dominant, as heterozygous loss-of-function mutation in these genes leads to phenotypic abnormalities. This condition, known as haploinsufficiency, has been described for five of the nine mammalian Pax genes, which are associated with mouse developmental mutants and human disease syndromes. Recently we have reported that the Pax5 gene is subject to allele-specific regulation during B cell development. Pax5 is predominantly transcribed from only one of its two alleles in early B-lymphoid progenitors and mature B cells, while it transiently switches to a biallelic mode of transcription in pre-B and immature B cells. As a consequence, B-lymphoid tissues are mosaic with regard to the transcribed allele, and heterozygous mutation of Pax5 therefore results in deletion of B lymphocytes expressing only the mutant allele. The allele-specific regulation of Pax5 raises the intriguing possibility that monoallelic expression may also be the mechanism causing the haploinsufficiency of other Pax genes. In this review, we discuss different models accounting for the haploinsufficiency of mammalian Pax genes, provide further evidence in support of the allele-specific regulation of Pax5 and discuss the implication of these findings in the context of the recent literature describing the stochastic and monoallelic activation of other hematopoietic genes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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