Evolution, function, and regulation of genomic imprinting in plant seed development

J Exp Bot. 2012 Aug;63(13):4713-22. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ers145.


Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon whereby genetically identical alleles are differentially expressed dependent on their parent-of-origin. Genomic imprinting has independently evolved in flowering plants and mammals. In both organism classes, imprinting occurs in embryo-nourishing tissues, the placenta and the endosperm, respectively, and it has been proposed that imprinted genes regulate the transfer of nutrients to the developing progeny. Many imprinted genes are located in the vicinity of DNA-methylated transposon or repeat sequences, implying that transposon insertions are associated with the evolution of imprinted loci. The antagonistic action of DNA methylation and Polycomb group-mediated histone methylation seems important for the regulation of many imprinted plant genes, whereby the position of such epigenetic modifications can determine whether a gene will be mainly expressed from either the maternally or paternally inherited alleles. Furthermore, long non-coding RNAs seem to play an as yet underappreciated role for the regulation of imprinted plant genes. 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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant*
  • Genomic Imprinting*
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics*
  • Magnoliopsida / growth & development
  • Magnoliopsida / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Plant Development
  • Seeds / genetics*
  • Seeds / growth & development
  • Seeds / metabolism