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Reprod Fertil Dev. 2009;21(8):935-42. doi: 10.1071/RD09092.

Eggs, embryos and the evolution of imprinting: insights from the platypus genome.

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  • 1ARC Centre of Excellence for Kangaroo Genomics, Australia.


Genomic imprinting is widespread in eutherian and marsupial mammals. Although there have been many hypotheses to explain why genomic imprinting evolved in mammals, few have examined how it arose. The host defence hypothesis suggests that imprinting evolved from existing mechanisms within the cell that act to silence foreign DNA elements that insert into the genome. However, the changes to the mammalian genome that accompanied the evolution of imprinting have been hard to define due to the absence of large-scale genomic resources from all extant classes. The recent release of the platypus genome sequence has provided the first opportunity to make comparisons between prototherian (monotreme, which show no signs of imprinting) and therian (marsupial and eutherian, which have imprinting) mammals. We compared the distribution of repeat elements known to attract epigenetic silencing across the genome from monotremes and therian mammals, particularly focusing on the orthologous imprinted regions. Our analyses show that the platypus has significantly fewer repeats of certain classes in the regions of the genome that have become imprinted in therian mammals. The accumulation of repeats, especially long-terminal repeats and DNA elements, in therian imprinted genes and gene clusters therefore appears to be coincident with, and may have been a potential driving force in, the development of mammalian genomic imprinting. Comparative platypus genome analyses of orthologous imprinted regions have provided strong support for the host defence hypothesis to explain the origin of imprinting.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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