Epigenetic mechanisms underlying genomic imprinting in plants

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2012;63:331-52. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-042811-105514. Epub 2012 Jan 30.


Genomic imprinting, the differential expression of an autosomal gene that is dependent on its parent of origin, has independently evolved in flowering plants and mammals. In both of these organism classes, imprinting occurs in embryo-nourishing tissues-the placenta and the endosperm, respectively. It has been proposed that some imprinted genes control nutrient flow from the mother to the offspring. Genome-wide analyses of imprinted genes in plants have revealed that many imprinted genes are located in the vicinity of transposon or repeat sequences, implying that transposon insertions are associated with the evolution of imprinted loci. Imprinted expression of a number of genes is conserved between monocots and dicots, suggesting that long-term selection can maintain imprinted expression at some loci. In terms of epigenetic mechanisms, imprinted expression is largely controlled by an antagonistic action of DNA methylation and Polycomb group-mediated histone methylation in the vicinity of imprinted genes, whereby the position of such epigenetic modifications can determine whether a gene will be expressed mainly from either the maternally or paternally inherited alleles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Biological Evolution
  • Conserved Sequence
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Endosperm / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genomic Imprinting / genetics*
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics
  • Oryza / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plants / genetics*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Seeds / genetics


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • MET1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases