MSL2 ensures biallelic gene expression in mammals

Nature. 2023 Dec;624(7990):173-181. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06781-3. Epub 2023 Nov 29.


In diploid organisms, biallelic gene expression enables the production of adequate levels of mRNA1,2. This is essential for haploinsufficient genes, which require biallelic expression for optimal function to prevent the onset of developmental disorders1,3. Whether and how a biallelic or monoallelic state is determined in a cell-type-specific manner at individual loci remains unclear. MSL2 is known for dosage compensation of the male X chromosome in flies. Here we identify a role of MSL2 in regulating allelic expression in mammals. Allele-specific bulk and single-cell analyses in mouse neural progenitor cells revealed that, in addition to the targets showing biallelic downregulation, a class of genes transitions from biallelic to monoallelic expression after MSL2 loss. Many of these genes are haploinsufficient. In the absence of MSL2, one allele remains active, retaining active histone modifications and transcription factor binding, whereas the other allele is silenced, exhibiting loss of promoter-enhancer contacts and the acquisition of DNA methylation. Msl2-knockout mice show perinatal lethality and heterogeneous phenotypes during embryonic development, supporting a role for MSL2 in regulating gene dosage. The role of MSL2 in preserving biallelic expression of specific dosage-sensitive genes sets the stage for further investigation of other factors that are involved in allelic dosage compensation in mammalian cells, with considerable implications for human disease.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles*
  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Dosage Compensation, Genetic
  • Embryonic Development
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Haploinsufficiency
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases* / deficiency
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases* / genetics
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases* / metabolism


  • Histones
  • MSL2 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases