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Reproduction. 2008 Nov;136(5):523-31. doi: 10.1530/REP-08-0264. Epub 2008 Sep 19.

Genomic imprinting in marsupial placentation.

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Department of Zoology, ARC Centre of Excellence for Kangaroo Genomics, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia.


Genomic imprinting is a widespread epigenetic phenomenon in eutherian mammals, which regulates many aspects of growth and development. Parental conflict over the degree of maternal nutrient transfer is the favoured hypothesis for the evolution of imprinting. Marsupials, like eutherian mammals, are viviparous but deliver an altricial young after a short gestation supported by a fully functional placenta, so can shed light on the evolution and time of acquisition of genomic imprinting. All orthologues of eutherian imprinted genes examined have a conserved expression in the marsupial placenta regardless of their imprint status. Differentially methylated regions (DMRs) are the most common mechanism controlling genomic imprinting in eutherian mammals, but none were found in the marsupial imprinted orthologues of IGF2 receptor (IGF2R), INS or mesoderm-specific transcript (MEST). Instead, histone modification appears to be the mechanism used to silence these genes. At least three genes in marsupials have DMRs: H19, IGF2 and PEG10. PEG10 is particularly interesting as it is derived from a retrotransposon, providing the first direct evidence that retrotransposon insertion can drive the evolution of an imprinted region and of a DMR in mammals. The insertion occurred after the prototherian-therian mammal divergence, suggesting that there may have been strong selection for the retention of imprinted regions that arose during the evolution of placentation. There is currently no evidence for genomic imprinting in the egg-laying monotreme mammals. However, since these mammals do have a short-lived placenta, imprinting appears to be correlated with viviparity but not placentation.

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