Hundreds of protein-coding genes and regulatory non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) are subject to genomic imprinting. The mono-allelic DNA methylation marks that control imprinted gene expression are somatically maintained throughout development, and this process is linked to specific chromatin features. Yet, at many imprinted genes, the mono-allelic expression is lineage or tissue-specific. Recent studies provide mechanistic insights into the developmentally-restricted action of the 'imprinting control regions' (ICRs). At several imprinted domains, the ICR expresses a long ncRNA that mediates chromatin repression in cis (and probably in trans as well). ICRs at other imprinted domains mediate higher-order chromatin structuration that enhances, or prevents, transcription of close-by genes. Here, we present how chromatin and ncRNAs contribute to developmental control of imprinted gene expression and discuss implications for disease. This article is part of a Directed Issue entitled: Epigenetics dynamics in development and disease.
Keywords: Chromatin; DNA methylation; Development; Genomic imprinting; Non-coding RNA.
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