Monoallelically expressed genes that exert their phenotypic effect in a parent-of-origin specific manner are considered to be subject to genomic imprinting, the most well understood form of epigenetic regulation of gene expression in mammals. The observed differences in allele specific gene expression for imprinted genes are not attributable to differences in DNA sequence information, but to specific chemical modifications of DNA and chromatin proteins. Since the discovery of genomic imprinting some three decades ago, over 100 imprinted mammalian genes have been identified and considerable advances have been made in uncovering the molecular mechanisms regulating imprinted gene expression. While most genomic imprinting studies have focused on mouse models and human biomedical disorders, recent work has highlighted the contributions of imprinted genes to complex trait variation in domestic livestock species. Consequently, greater understanding of genomic imprinting and its effect on agriculturally important traits is predicted to have major implications for the future of animal breeding and husbandry. In this review, we discuss genomic imprinting in mammals with particular emphasis on domestic livestock species and consider how this information can be used in animal breeding research and genetic improvement programs.
National University of Ireland Galway ->