Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic feature characterized by parent-specific monoallelic gene expression. The aim of this study was to compare the DNA methylation status of imprinted genes and imprinting control regions (ICRs), harboring differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in a comprehensive panel of 18 somatic tissues. The germline DMRs analyzed were divided into ubiquitously imprinted and placenta-specific DMRs, which show identical and different methylation imprints in adult somatic and placental tissues, respectively. We showed that imprinted genes and ICR DMRs maintain methylation patterns characterized by intermediate methylation levels in somatic tissues, which are pronounced in a specific region of the promoter area, located 200-1500 bp from the transcription start site. This intermediate methylation is concordant with gene expression from a single unmethylated allele and silencing of a reciprocal parental allele through DNA methylation. The only exceptions were seen for ICR DMRs of placenta-specific imprinted genes, which showed low levels of methylation, suggesting that these genes escape parent-specific epigenetic regulation in somatic tissues.
Keywords: ICR; Levene's test; genomic imprinting; methylation; somatic tissues.