Unearthing the roles of imprinted genes in the placenta

Placenta. 2009 Oct;30(10):823-34. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2009.07.007. Epub 2009 Aug 12.


Mammalian fetal survival and growth are dependent on a well-established and functional placenta. Although transient, the placenta is the first organ to be formed during pregnancy and is responsible for important functions during development, such as the control of metabolism and fetal nutrition, gas and metabolite exchange, and endocrine control. Epigenetic marks and gene expression patterns in early development play an essential role in embryo and fetal development. Specifically, the epigenetic phenomenon known as genomic imprinting, represented by the non-equivalence of the paternal and maternal genome, may be one of the most important regulatory pathways involved in the development and function of the placenta in eutherian mammals. A lack of pattern or an imprecise pattern of genomic imprinting can lead to either embryonic losses or a disruption in fetal and placental development. Genetically modified animals present a powerful approach for revealing the interplay between gene expression and placental function in vivo and allow a single gene disruption to be analyzed, particularly focusing on its role in placenta function. In this paper, we review the recent transgenic strategies that have been successfully created in order to provide a better understanding of the epigenetic patterns of the placenta, with a special focus on imprinted genes. We summarize a number of phenotypes derived from the genetic manipulation of imprinted genes and other epigenetic modulators in an attempt to demonstrate that gene-targeting studies have contributed considerably to the knowledge of placentation and conceptus development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Genomic Imprinting / genetics
  • Genomic Imprinting / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy