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Curr Biol. 1999 Oct 21;9(20):1199-202.

Biallelic transcription of Igf2 and H19 in individual cells suggests a post-transcriptional contribution to genomic imprinting.

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Institut Cochin de Génétique Moléculaire, INSERM U 257, 24 rue du Fbg St Jacques, 75014, Paris, France.


The H19 and insulin-like growth factor 2 (Igf2) genes in the mouse are models for genomic imprinting during development. The genes are located only 90 kb apart in the same transcriptional orientation [1], but are reciprocally imprinted: Igf2 is paternally expressed while H19 is maternally expressed. It has been suggested that expression of H19 and repression of Igf2 (or the converse) on a given chromosome are mechanistically linked and that the parental imprint operates at the level of transcription [2]. Although expression of Igf2 and H19 is thought to be monoallelic, the data have so far been obtained exclusively by looking at steady-state RNA levels using techniques that reflect the average activity of the genes in a cell population [3] [4]. Here, we have adapted a fluorescent in situ hybridisation (FISH) method to detect nascent RNA molecules of Igf2 and H19 at the initial transcription sites in the nuclei of wild-type mouse embryonic liver cells. Nine different transcription patterns were observed, reflecting a high heterogeneity of transcription at the single-cell level. Our observations suggest that regulation of Igf2 and H19 by parental imprinting is much more complex than previously proposed and acts at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels.

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