Epigenetic and Cellular Diversity in the Brain through Allele-Specific Effects

Trends Neurosci. 2018 Dec;41(12):925-937. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2018.07.005. Epub 2018 Aug 8.


The benefits of diploidy are considered to involve masking partially recessive mutations and increasing genetic diversity. Here, we review new studies showing evidence for diverse allele-specific expression and epigenetic states in mammalian brain cells, which suggest that diploidy expands the landscape of gene regulatory and expression programs in cells. Allele-specific expression has been thought to be restricted to a few specific classes of genes. However, new studies show novel genomic imprinting effects that are brain-region-, cell-type- and age-dependent. In addition, novel forms of random monoallelic expression that impact many autosomal genes have been described in vitro and in vivo. We discuss the implications for understanding the benefits of diploidy, and the mechanisms shaping brain development, function, and disease.

Keywords: behavioral genetics; brain development; epigenetics; gene expression; genomic imprinting; random monoallelic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Diploidy*
  • Epigenomics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Humans