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Methods Mol Biol. 2001;181:169-80.

RNA-FISH to analyze allele-specific expression.

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Department of Cell Biology and Genetics, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


One of the difficulties associated with the analysis of imprinted gene expression is the need to distinguish RNA synthesis occurring at the maternal vs the paternally inherited copy of the gene. Most of the techniques used to examine allele-specific expression exploit naturally occurring polymorphisms and measure steady-state levels of RNA isolated from a pool of cells. Hence, a restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) an be exploited in a heterozygote, by a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)- based procedure, to analyze maternal vs paternal gene expression. The human IGF2R gene was analyzed in this way. Smrzka et al. (1) were thus able to show that the IGF2R gene possesses a hemimethylated, intronic CpG island analogous to the mouse imprinting box. However, IGF2R mRNA was detected that possessed the RFLP from both the maternal and paternal alleles in all but one of the 70 lymphoblastoid samples. (The one monoallelic sample reactivated its paternal allele with continued cell culturing.) It was concluded that monoallelic expression of the human gene is a polymorphic trait occurring in a small minority of all tested samples (reviewed in refs. 2,3). Although this is a sound conclusion, the question remains: Is the human IGF2R gene imprinted?

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