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An in vitro ES cell imprinting model shows that imprinted expression of the Igf2r gene arises from an allele-specific expression bias.

ABSTRACT: Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic process that results in parental-specific gene expression. Advances in understanding the mechanism that regulates imprinted gene expression in mammals have largely depended on generating targeted manipulations in embryonic stem (ES) cells that are analysed in vivo in mice. However, genomic imprinting consists of distinct developmental steps, some of which occur in post-implantation embryos, indicating that they could be studied in vitro in ES cells. The mouse Igf2r gene shows imprinted expression only in post-implantation stages, when repression of the paternal allele has been shown to require cis-expression of the Airn non-coding (nc) RNA and to correlate with gain of DNA methylation and repressive histone modifications. Here we follow the gain of imprinted expression of Igf2r during in vitro ES cell differentiation and show that it coincides with the onset of paternal-specific expression of the Airn ncRNA. Notably, although Airn ncRNA expression leads, as predicted, to gain of repressive epigenetic marks on the paternal Igf2r promoter, we unexpectedly find that the paternal Igf2r promoter is expressed at similar low levels throughout ES cell differentiation. Our results further show that the maternal and paternal Igf2r promoters are expressed equally in undifferentiated ES cells, but during differentiation expression of the maternal Igf2r promoter increases up to 10-fold, while expression from the paternal Igf2r promoter remains constant. This indicates, contrary to expectation, that the Airn ncRNA induces imprinted Igf2r expression not by silencing the paternal Igf2r promoter, but by generating an expression bias between the two parental alleles.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC2846269 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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