Variability of X chromosome inactivation: effect on levels of TIMP1 RNA and role of DNA methylation

Hum Genet. 2002 Mar;110(3):271-8. doi: 10.1007/s00439-002-0676-8. Epub 2002 Feb 1.


X chromosome inactivation results in dosage equivalency for X-linked gene expression between males and females. However, some X-linked genes show variable X inactivation, being expressed from the inactive X in some females but subject to inactivation in other women. The human tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 ( TIMP1) gene falls into this category. As TIMP1 and its target metalloproteinases are involved in many biological processes, women with elevated TIMP1 expression may exhibit different disease susceptibilities. To address the potential impact of variable X inactivation, we analyzed TIMP1 expression levels by using an RNase protection assay. The substantial variation of TIMP1 expression observed in cells with monoallelic TIMP1 expression precluded analysis of the contribution of the inactive X to total TIMP1 RNA levels in females, so we examined expression in rodent/human somatic cell hybrids. TIMP1 expression levels varied more widely in hybrids retaining an inactive X than in those with an active X chromosome, suggesting variable retention of the epigenetic silencing mechanisms associated with X inactivation. Therefore, we investigated the contribution of methylation at the promoter to expression level variation and found that methylation of the TIMP1 promoter correlated with instability and low level expression, whereas stable TIMP1expression from the inactive X equivalent to that seen from the active X chromosome was observed when the promoter was unmethylated. Since all female cell lines examined showed methylation of the TIMP1 promoter, the contribution of expression from the inactive X appears minimal. However, as women age, they may accumulate cells stably expressing TIMP1 from the inactive X, with a resulting increase of TIMP1, which may explain some sex differences in various late-onset disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Dosage Compensation, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Hybrid Cells
  • Male
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA / genetics*
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-1 / genetics*
  • X Chromosome / genetics


  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-1
  • RNA