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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Nov 26;110(48):19639-44. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1309182110. Epub 2013 Nov 11.

Comprehensive analysis of imprinted genes in maize reveals allelic variation for imprinting and limited conservation with other species.

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Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute and Department of Plant Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108.


In plants, a subset of genes exhibit imprinting in endosperm tissue such that expression is primarily from the maternal or paternal allele. Imprinting may arise as a consequence of mechanisms for silencing of transposons during reproduction, and in some cases imprinted expression of particular genes may provide a selective advantage such that it is conserved across species. Separate mechanisms for the origin of imprinted expression patterns and maintenance of these patterns may result in substantial variation in the targets of imprinting in different species. Here we present deep sequencing of RNAs isolated from reciprocal crosses of four diverse maize genotypes, providing a comprehensive analysis that allows evaluation of imprinting at more than 95% of endosperm-expressed genes. We find that over 500 genes exhibit statistically significant parent-of-origin effects in maize endosperm tissue, but focused our analyses on a subset of these genes that had >90% expression from the maternal allele (69 genes) or from the paternal allele (108 genes) in at least one reciprocal cross. Over 10% of imprinted genes show evidence of allelic variation for imprinting. A comparison of imprinting in maize and rice reveals that 13% of genes with syntenic orthologs in both species exhibit conserved imprinting. Genes that exhibit conserved imprinting between maize and rice have elevated nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution ratios compared with other imprinted genes, suggesting a history of more rapid evolution. Together, these data suggest that imprinting only has functional relevance at a subset of loci that currently exhibit imprinting in maize.

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