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Human imprinted retrogenes exhibit non-canonical imprint chromatin signatures and reside in non-imprinted host genes

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  • David Monk
  • Philippe Arnaud
  • Jennifer M Frost
  • Andrew Wood
  • Michael Cowley
  • Alejandro Martin-Trujillo
  • Amy Guillaumet-Adkins
  • Isabel Iglesias Platas
  • Cristina Camprubi
  • Deborah Bourc'his
  • Robert Feil
  • Gudrun E Moore
  • Rebecca J Oakey

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4577-86
Number of pages10
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Imprinted retrotransposed genes share a common genomic organization including a promoter-associated differentially methylated region (DMR) and a position within the intron of a multi-exonic 'host' gene. In the mouse, at least one transcript of the host gene is also subject to genomic imprinting. Human retrogene orthologues are imprinted and we reveal that human host genes are not imprinted. This coincides with genomic rearrangements that occurred during primate evolution, which increase the separation between the retrogene DMRs and the host genes. To address the mechanisms governing imprinted retrogene expression, histone modifications were assayed at the DMRs. For the mouse retrogenes, the active mark H3K4me2 was associated with the unmethylated paternal allele, while the methylated maternal allele was enriched in repressive marks including H3K9me3 and H4K20me3. Two human retrogenes showed monoallelic enrichment of active, but not of repressive marks suggesting a partial uncoupling of the relationship between DNA methylation and repressive histone methylation, possibly due to the smaller size and lower CpG density of these DMRs. Finally, we show that the genes immediately flanking the host genes in mouse and human are biallelically expressed in a range of tissues, suggesting that these loci are distinct from large imprinted clusters.

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