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PLoS One. 2009;4(2):e4352. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004352. Epub 2009 Feb 5.

At least ten genes define the imprinted Dlk1-Dio3 cluster on mouse chromosome 12qF1.

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Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics, Comprehensive Cancer Center, The Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, United States of America.



Genomic imprinting is an exception to Mendelian genetics in that imprinted genes are expressed monoallelically, dependent on parental origin. In mammals, imprinted genes are critical in numerous developmental and physiological processes. Aberrant imprinted gene expression is implicated in several diseases including Prader-Willi/Angelman syndromes and cancer.


To identify novel imprinted genes, transcription profiling was performed on two uniparentally derived cell lines, androgenetic and parthenogenetic primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts. A maternally expressed transcript termed Imprinted RNA near Meg3/Gtl2 (Irm) was identified and its expression studied by Northern blotting and whole mounts in situ hybridization. The imprinted region that contains Irm has a parent of origin effect in three mammalian species, including the sheep callipyge locus. In mice and humans, both maternal and paternal uniparental disomies (UPD) cause embryonic growth and musculoskeletal abnormalities, indicating that both alleles likely express essential genes. To catalog all imprinted genes in this chromosomal region, twenty-five mouse mRNAs in a 1.96Mb span were investigated for allele specific expression.


Ten imprinted genes were elucidated. The imprinting of three paternally expressed protein coding genes (Dlk1, Peg11, and Dio3) was confirmed. Seven noncoding RNAs (Meg3/Gtl2, Anti-Peg11, Meg8, Irm/"Rian", AK050713, AK053394, and Meg9/Mirg) are characterized by exclusive maternal expression. Intriguingly, the majority of these noncoding RNA genes contain microRNAs and/or snoRNAs within their introns, as do their human orthologs. Of the 52 identified microRNAs that map to this region, six are predicted to regulate negatively Dlk1, suggesting an additional mechanism for interactions between allelic gene products. Since several previous studies relied heavily on in silico analysis and RT-PCR, our findings from Northerns and cDNA cloning clarify the genomic organization of this region. Our results expand the number of maternally expressed noncoding RNAs whose loss may be responsible for the phenotypes associated with mouse pUPD12 and human pUPD14 syndromes.

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