Allelic expression of IGF2 in marsupials and birds
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Genomic imprinting, the parent-of-origin- specific expression of genes, has been observed in a variety of eutherian mammals. One gene that has been shown to be imprinted in all eutherians examined is the IGF2 gene. This gene encodes a potent fetal-specific growth factor that is expressed almost exclusively from the paternal chromosome. Several other imprinted genes in the IGF2 pathway are imprinted as well, suggesting that IGF2 is a focal point for the selective pressure leading to imprinted gene expression. This observation is in keeping with a proposal that imprinting arose as the result of a genetic conflict between parents over the allocation of maternal resources to the embryo. One prediction of this model is that imprinting exists in species in which there is at least some contribution of maternal resources to the embryo, and in which polyandry is observed. To test this prediction the allelic expression of the IGF2 gene was examined in two noneutherian species. The IGF2 gene was shown to be expressed in a paternal-specific manner identical to that in eutherians in Monodelphis domestica, a placental South American opossum. In contrast, the IGF2 gene is biallelic in expression in chickens, which are oviparous, and make no postfertilization contribution of maternal resources to the offspring.
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