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Early Hum Dev. 2001 Sep;64(2):105-17.

Mechanisms for differences in monozygous twins.

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The Multiple Births Foundation, Hammersmith House, Level 4, Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, Du Cane Road, London W12 OHS, UK.


Monozygous (MZ) twins are often described as being physically and genetically identical. Clinical determination of zygosity relies on the assumption that any physical differences between a pair of twins imply they are dizygous. Most twin research relies on the assumption that dizygous twins share approximately 50% of the same genes, whereas monozygous twins share 100%. There is, however, increasing evidence to challenge both these assumptions. In this review, we describe a number of intrauterine effects and genetic mechanisms that may result in phenotypic, genotypic, and epigenetic differences between monozygous twins. Newer molecular techniques are resulting in such differences being increasingly commonly recognised. The potential for differences in monozygotic twin pairs is an important consideration for both clinicians and researchers involved in twin work.

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