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Biochem Cell Biol. 1997;75(5):499-506.

DNA methylation and genome imprinting in the zebrafish, Danio rerio: some evolutionary ramifications.

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Department of Zoology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.


Although methylation has been recognized as an important component in a number of developmental processes in mammals, in zebrafish almost nothing is known about this epigenetic modification. This is despite the fact that the zebrafish is becoming increasingly popular as a developmental model system. The little work that has been done on methylation and development in fish concerns genomic imprinting. In mammals, imprinting results in an inability to reproduce parthenogenetically because a genetic contribution from both parents is necessary to successfully complete development. However, this is not true of zebrafish, and a number of the theories that have been presented to explain the evolution of imprinting are not consistent with imprinting in these fish. A new model is presented that discusses some of the potential evolutionary ramifications of methylation and imprinting and that leads to the suggestion that imprinting may actually be a simple genetic mechanism to enhance the efficient evolution of both individual genetic loci and combinations of loci with related functions, without risking the population as a whole. This model can accommodate all of the information known about imprinting, including its broad phylogenetic range, imprinting by both males and females, and the diverse nature of the genes that are known to be imprinted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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