Developmental plasticity can be defined as the ability of one genotype to produce a range of phenotypes in response to environmental conditions. Such plasticity can be manifest at the level of individual cells, an organ, or a whole organism. Imprinted genes are a group of approximately 100 genes with functionally monoallelic, parental-origin specific expression. As imprinted genes are critical for prenatal growth and metabolic axis development and function, modulation of imprinted gene dosage has been proposed to play a key role in the plastic development of the unborn foetus in response to environmental conditions. Evidence is accumulating that imprinted dosage may also be involved in controlling the plastic potential of individual cells or stem cell populations. Imprinted gene dosage can be modulated through canonical, transcription factor mediated mechanisms, or through the relaxation of imprinting itself, reactivating the normally silent allele.
Copyright © 2011 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.