DNA methylation in genomic imprinting

Mutat Res. 1997 Apr;386(2):131-40. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5742(96)00049-x.


As a reversible epigenetic modification which can affect gene expression, DNA methylation has been an attractive candidate for the biochemical mechanism of genomic imprinting. Many correlations in mice and humans link allele-specific DNA methylation to the allele-restricted RNA expression which is the hallmark of imprinted genes. Moreover, abnormal DNA methylation accompanies the pathological functional imprinting of certain human genes on chromosome 11p15.5 in Wilms' tumors and in the Beckwith-Weidemann syndrome and on chromosome 15q11-13 in the Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes. A role for DNA methylation in maintaining the transcriptional silence of imprinted alleles at some loci has been supported by pharmacological manipulation with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine and by experiments with methyltransferase deletion mice. Gametic differences in DNA methylation could also account for the initiation of imprints, but this remains unproven. Comprehensive physical models for the role of DNA methylation in imprinting must account not only for local allele-restricted gene expression but also for the existence of large chromosomal domains containing multiple coordinately imprinted genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angelman Syndrome / genetics
  • Animals
  • Azacitidine / pharmacology
  • Binding Sites
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / drug therapy
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / genetics*
  • Genomic Imprinting / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / genetics
  • Methyltransferases / drug effects
  • Methyltransferases / genetics
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome / genetics
  • Transgenes
  • Wilms Tumor / genetics


  • Methyltransferases
  • Azacitidine