Genomic imprinting in mammals

Annu Rev Genet. 1997;31:493-525. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.31.1.493.


A handful of autosomal genes in the mammalian genome are inherited in a silent state from one of the two parents, and in a fully active form from the other, thereby rendering the organism functionally hemizygous for imprinted genes. To date 19 imprinted genes have been identified; 5 are expressed from the maternal chromosome while the rest are expressed from the paternal chromosome. Allele-specific methylation of CpG residues, established in one of the germlines and maintained throughout embryogenesis, has been clearly implicated in the maintenance of imprinting in somatic cells. Although the function of imprinting remains a subject of some debate, the process is thought to have an important role in regulating the rate of fetal growth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genomic Imprinting*
  • Humans
  • Mammals / genetics*