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Genomic imprinting is a parent-of-origin-specific expression phenomenon that plays fundamental roles in many biological processes. In animals, imprinting is only observed in therian mammals, with ∼200 imprinted genes known in humans and mice. The imprinting pattern in marsupials has been minimally investigated by examining orthologs to known eutherian imprinted genes. To identify marsupial-specific imprinting in an unbiased way, we performed RNA-seq studies on samples of fetal brain and placenta from the reciprocal cross progeny of two laboratory opossum stocks. We inferred allele-specific expression for >3,000 expressed genes and discovered/validated 13 imprinted genes, including three previously known imprinted genes, Igf2r, Peg10, and H19. We estimate that marsupials imprint ∼60 autosomal genes, which is a much smaller set compared with eutherians. Among the nine novel imprinted genes, three noncoding RNAs have no known homologs in eutherian mammals, while the remaining genes have important functions in pluripotency, transcription regulation, nucleolar homeostasis, and neural differentiation. Methylation analyses at promoter CpG islands revealed differentially methylated regions in five of these marsupial-specific imprinted genes, suggesting that differential methylation is a common mechanism in the epigenetic regulation of marsupial imprinting. Clustering and co-regulation were observed at marsupial imprinting loci Pou5f3-Npdc1 and Nkrfl-Ipncr2, but eutherian-type multi-gene imprinting clusters were not detected. Also differing from eutherian mammals, the brain and placenta imprinting profiles are remarkably similar in opossums, presumably due to the shared origin of these organs from the trophectoderm. Our results contribute to a fuller understanding of the origin, evolution, and mechanisms of genomic imprinting in therian mammals.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Mol Biol Evol.



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Office of Human Genetics



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