Genomic Imprinting and the intergenerational transmission of maternal phenotypes

Monday March 23, 2020 (4:00 PM – 5:00 PM)

Claudius Vincenz

Research Area Specialist, Sr.
University of Michigan

Some phenotypes, and not always the most desirable ones, are transmitted between generations by epigenetic mechanisms. I will present results from our study aimed at understanding how pathologically short stature, or stunting, is transmitted from mothers to offspring. In undernourished populations, over 140 million children are stunted, predisposing them for poor health and reduced cognitive function in adulthood. Epidemiological evidence and studies in animals suggest that stunting, at least in part, is a phenotype passed from one generation to the next, but the mechanism of transmission is unknown. Imprinted genes have been identified experimentally and through theoretical considerations as candidates for regulating growth in mammals. Imprinted genes are preferentially expressed from either the maternal or the paternal allele, instead of the usual 50:50 expression. We hypothesized that the extent of expression bias in imprinted genes in the placenta affects offspring growth and transmits stunting. To test this hypothesis, we sequenced RNA and quantified the expression biases (allele specific expression) of imprinted genes in placentas from mothers in Mali, West Africa. By studying variation in allelic bias in this multi-generation cohort study, we can show for the first time an association between maternal phenotypes, birth phenotypes, and genomic imprinting.

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