No evidence that skewing of X chromosome inactivation patterns is transmitted to offspring in humans

J Clin Invest. 2008 Jan;118(1):333-41. doi: 10.1172/JCI33166.


Skewing of X chromosome inactivation (XCI) can occur in normal females and increases in tissues with age. The mechanisms underlying skewing in normal females, however, remain controversial. To better understand the phenomenon of XCI in nondisease states, we evaluated XCI patterns in epithelial and hematopoietic cells of over 500 healthy female mother-neonate pairs. The incidence of skewing observed in mothers was twice that observed in neonates, and in both cohorts, the incidence of XCI was lower in epithelial cells than hematopoietic cells. These results suggest that XCI incidence varies by tissue type and that age-dependent mechanisms can influence skewing in both epithelial and hematopoietic cells. In both cohorts, a correlation was identified in the direction of skewing in epithelial and hematopoietic cells, suggesting common underlying skewing mechanisms across tissues. However, there was no correlation between the XCI patterns of mothers and their respective neonates, and skewed mothers gave birth to skewed neonates at the same frequency as nonskewed mothers. Taken together, our data suggest that in humans, the XCI pattern observed at birth does not reflect a single heritable genetic locus, but rather corresponds to a complex trait determined, at least in part, by selection biases occurring after XCI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Chromosomes, Human, X / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / physiology*
  • X Chromosome Inactivation / physiology*