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J Biol Chem. 2005 Jan 14;280(2):1354-9. Epub 2004 Nov 1.

Monoallelic expression and asynchronous replication of p120 catenin in mouse and human cells.

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  • 1Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA.


The number of autosomal mammalian genes subject to random monoallelic expression has been limited to genes highly specific to the function of chemosensory neurons or lymphocytes, making this phenomenon difficult to address systematically. Here we demonstrate that asynchronous DNA replication can be used as a marker for the identification of novel genes with monoallelic expression and identify p120 catenin, a gene involved in cell adhesion, as belonging to this class. p120 is widely expressed; its presence in available cell lines allowed us to address quantitative aspects of monoallelic expression. We show that the epigenetic choice of active allele is clonally stable and that biallelic clones express p120 at twice the level of monoallelic clones. Unlike previous reports about genes of this type, we found that expression of p120 can be monoallelic in one cell type and strictly biallelic in another. We show that in human lymphoblasts, the silencing of one allele is incomplete. These unexpected properties are likely to be wide-spread, as we show that the Tlr4 gene shares them. Identification of monoallelic expression of a nearly ubiquitous gene indicates that this type of gene regulation is more common than previously thought. This has important implications for carcinogenesis and definition of cell identity.

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