The Mystery of How Zygotes Determine Parental Genes

Genes in all the mammals are neither created equally and nor are they equally used and as such the hidden mystery regarding which copy of parental gene will be determined by the fertilized egg continues to be a hot topic of research. The sorting out of imprinted genes, which are nothing but an expression of certain genes is determined by just a single copy of the genetic contribution of the parents and as many as 80 imprinted genes are known to exist in the human body. The study was carried on by the researches at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, theUniversityofCalifornia, San Diego School of Medicine and the Toronto Western Research Institute.

According to the study varied heritable conditions like Prader-Willi and Angelman syndromes can occur in case of faulty expression of these imprinted genes. So if a copy of an imprinted gene fails to function or if at times, both the copies are expressed then such syndromes and even lethal diseases like cancer can be certain. The team of researchers which was lead by Bing Ren, PhD, head of the Laboratory of Gene Regulation at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at UC San Diego elaborated the actual procedure of how the stage is set for selective expression of imprinted genes in the mouse by the differential DNA methylation in the two parental genomes.
epigenetic regulation

For the normal development in higher organisms including humans, differential DNA methylation which involves the addition of hydrocarbon compounds called methyl to cytosine, one of the four bases or building blocks of DNA, is very vital. The genes are either boosted or suppressed and hence their expressions are altered by such an addition. Sometimes this process is known as epigenetic regulation where epigenetic stands for the study of factors effecting inheritance beyond the genes themselves. The parent-of-origin specific DNA methylation imprints at 1,952 dinucleotide sequences in the mouse genome and this was found with the help of deep sequencing, high-throughput screening technology  developed by Joseph Ecker and his colleagues at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Advocating the benefits of such a research Ren said, “Understanding how these limited imprinted regions control regulation can help us to understand better how certain diseases happen. That can help us to develop better diagnostic tools for detecting genetic abnormalities and perhaps to learn how to predict whether something bad will happen.”

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