Background: Genomic imprinting is an epigenetically regulated process wherein genes are expressed in a parent-of-origin specific manner. Many imprinted genes were initially identified in mice; some of these were subsequently shown not to be imprinted in humans. Such discrepancy reflects developmental, morphological and physiological differences between mouse and human tissues. This is particularly relevant for the placenta. Study of genomic imprinting thus needs to be carried out in a species and developmental stage-specific manner. We describe here a new strategy to study allele-specific DNA methylation in the human placenta for the discovery of novel imprinted genes.Results: Using this methodology, we confirmed 16 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) associated with known imprinted genes. We chose 28 genomic regions for further testing and identified two imprinted genes (DNMT1 and AIM1). Both genes showed maternal allele-specific methylation and paternal allele-specific transcription. Imprinted expression for AIM1 was conserved in the cynomolgus macaque placenta, but not in other macaque tissues or in the mouse.Conclusions: Our study indicates that while there are many genomic regions with allele-specific methylation in tissues like the placenta, only a small sub-set of them are associated with allele-specific transcription, suggesting alternative functions for such genomic regions. Nonetheless, novel tissue-specific imprinted genes remain to be discovered in humans. Their identification may help us better understand embryonic and fetal development.
- Differentially Methylated Region (DMR)
- Genomic imprinting
- Next generation sequencing
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