To test whether regions undergoing genomic imprinting have unique genomic characteristics, imprinted and nonimprinted human loci were compared for nucleotide and retroelement composition. Maternally and paternally expressed subgroups of imprinted genes were found to differ in terms of guanine and cytosine, CpG, and retroelement content, indicating a segregation into distinct genomic compartments. Imprinted regions have been normally permissive to L1 long interspersed transposable element retroposition during mammalian evolution but universally and significantly lack short interspersed transposable elements (SINEs). The primate-specific Alu SINEs, as well as the more ancient mammalian-wide interspersed repeat SINEs, are found at significantly low densities in imprinted regions. The latter paleogenomic signature indicates that the sequence characteristics of currently imprinted regions existed before the mammalian radiation. Transitions from imprinted to nonimprinted genomic regions in cis are characterized by a sharp inflection in SINE content, demonstrating that this genomic characteristic can help predict the presence and extent of regions undergoing imprinting. During primate evolution, SINE accumulation in imprinted regions occurred at a decreased rate compared with control loci. The constraint on SINE accumulation in imprinted regions may be mediated by an active selection process. This selection could be because of SINEs attracting and spreading methylation, as has been found at other loci. Methylation-induced silencing could lead to deleterious consequences at imprinted loci, where inactivation of one allele is already established, and expression is often essential for embryonic growth and survival.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Jan 8 2002|
ASJC Scopus subject areas