Marsupials have monoallelic MEST expression with a conserved antisense lncRNA but MEST is not imprinted

Heredity (Edinb). 2024 Jan;132(1):5-17. doi: 10.1038/s41437-023-00656-z. Epub 2023 Nov 11.


The imprinted isoform of the Mest gene in mice is involved in key mammalian traits such as placental and fetal growth, maternal care and mammary gland maturation. The imprinted isoform has a distinct differentially methylated region (DMR) at its promoter in eutherian mammals but in marsupials, there are no differentially methylated CpG islands between the parental alleles. Here, we examined similarities and differences in the MEST gene locus across mammals using a marsupial, the tammar wallaby, a monotreme, the platypus, and a eutherian, the mouse, to investigate how imprinting of this gene evolved in mammals. By confirming the presence of the short isoform in all mammalian groups (which is imprinted in eutherians), this study suggests that an alternative promoter for the short isoform evolved at the MEST gene locus in the common ancestor of mammals. In the tammar, the short isoform of MEST shared the putative promoter CpG island with an antisense lncRNA previously identified in humans and an isoform of a neighbouring gene CEP41. The antisense lncRNA was expressed in tammar sperm, as seen in humans. This suggested that the conserved lncRNA might be important in the establishment of MEST imprinting in therian mammals, but it was not imprinted in the tammar. In contrast to previous studies, this study shows that MEST is not imprinted in marsupials. MEST imprinting in eutherians, therefore must have occurred after the marsupial-eutherian split with the acquisition of a key epigenetic imprinting control region, the differentially methylated CpG islands between the parental alleles.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Eutheria / genetics
  • Eutheria / metabolism
  • Female
  • Genomic Imprinting*
  • Humans
  • Macropodidae* / genetics
  • Macropodidae* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Placenta / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Proteins* / genetics
  • Proteins* / metabolism
  • RNA, Long Noncoding* / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding* / metabolism
  • Semen / metabolism


  • CEP41 protein, human
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • mesoderm specific transcript protein