The evolving landscape of imprinted genes in humans and mice: Conflict among alleles, genes, tissues, and kin

Jon F. Wilkins, Francisco Ubeda de Torres, Jeremy Van Cleve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three recent genome-wide studies in mice and humans have produced the most definitive map to date of genomic imprinting (gene expression that depends on parental origin) by incorporating multiple tissue types and devel- opmental stages. Here, we explore the results of these studies in light of the kinship theory of genomic imprinting, which predicts that imprinting evolves due to differential genetic relatedness between maternal and paternal relatives. The studies produce a list of imprinted genes with around 120–180 in mice and 100 in humans. The studies agree on broad patterns across mice and humans including the complex patterns of imprinted expression at loci like Igf2 and Grb10. We discuss how the kinship theory provides a powerful framework for hypotheses that can explain these patterns. Finally, since imprinting is rare in the genome despite predictions from the kinship theory that it might be common, we discuss evolutionary factors that could favor biallelic expression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-489
Number of pages8
JournalBioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology
Issue number5
Early online date18 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

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