Genomic imprinting affects several dozen mammalian genes and results in the expression of those genes from only one of the two parental chromosomes. This is brought about by epigenetic instructions--imprints--that are laid down in the parental germ cells. Imprinting is a particularly important genetic mechanism in mammals, and is thought to influence the transfer of nutrients to the fetus and the newborn from the mother. Consistent with this view is the fact that imprinted genes tend to affect growth in the womb and behaviour after birth. Aberrant imprinting disturbs development and is the cause of various disease syndromes. The study of imprinting also provides new insights into epigenetic gene modification during development.