Matarazzo V - Muscatelli F


Rare diseases (Austin, Tex.)


Genomic imprinting is a normal process of epigenetic regulation leading some autosomal genes to be expressed from one parental allele only, the other parental allele being silenced. The reasons why this mechanism has been selected throughout evolution are not clear; however, expression dosage is critical for imprinted genes. There is a paradox between the fact that genomic imprinting is a robust mechanism controlling the expression of specific genes and the fact that this mechanism is based on epigenetic regulation that, per se, should present some flexibility. The robustness has been well studied, revealing the epigenetic modifications at the imprinted locus, but the flexibility has been poorly investigated.   Prader-Willi syndrome is the best-studied disease involving imprinted genes caused by the absence of expression of paternally inherited alleles of genes located in the human 15q11-q13 region. Until now, the silencing of the maternally inherited alleles was like a dogma. Rieusset et al. showed that in absence of the paternal Ndn allele, in Ndn +m/-p mice, the maternal Ndn allele is expressed at an extremely low level with a high degree of non-genetic heterogeneity. In about 50% of these mutant mice, this stochastic expression reduces birth lethality and severity of the breathing deficiency, correlated with a reduction in the loss of serotonergic neurons. Furthermore, using several mouse models, they reveal a competition between non-imprinted Ndn promoters, which results in monoallelic (paternal or maternal) Ndn expression, suggesting that Ndn monoallelic expression occurs in the absence of imprinting regulation. Importantly, specific expression of the maternal NDN allele is also detected in post-mortem brain samples of PWS individuals. Here, similar expression of the Magel2 maternal allele is reported in Magel2 +m/-p mice, suggesting that this loss of imprinting can be extended to other PWS genes. These data reveal an unexpected epigenetic flexibility of PWS imprinted genes that could be exploited to reactivate the functional but dormant maternal alleles in PWS.

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