Genomic imprinting in gametogenesis marks a subset of mammalian genes for parent-of-origin-dependent monoallelic expression in the offspring. Embryological and classical genetic experiments in mice that uncovered the existence of genomic imprinting nearly two decades ago produced abnormalities of growth or behavior, without severe developmental malformations. Since then, the identification and manipulation of individual imprinted genes has continued to suggest that the diverse products of these genes are largely devoted to controlling pre- and post-natal growth, as well as brain function and behavior. Here, we review this evidence, and link our discussion to a website (http://www.otago.ac.nz/IGC) containing a comprehensive database of imprinted genes. Ultimately, these data will answer the long-debated question of whether there is a coherent biological rationale for imprinting.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.