Loss of imprinting (LOI) is the gain of expression from the silent allele of an imprinted gene normally expressed from only one parental copy. LOI has been associated with neurodevelopmental disorders and reproductive abnormalities. The mechanisms of imprinting are varied, with DNA methylation representing only one. We have developed a functional transcriptional assay for LOI that is not limited to a single mechanism of imprinting. The method employs allele-specific PCR analysis of RT-PCR products containing common readout polymorphisms. With this method, we are able to measure LOI at the sensitivity of 1%. The method has been applied to measurement of LOI in human placentas. We found that RNA was stable in placentas stored for more than one hour at 4 degrees C following delivery. We analyzed a test panel of 26 genes known to be imprinted in the human genome. We found that 18 genes were expressed in placenta. Fourteen of the 18 expressed genes contained common readout polymorphisms in the transcripts with a minor allele frequency >20%. We found that 5 of the 14 genes were not imprinted in placenta. Using the remaining nine genes, we examined 93 heterozygosities in 27 samples. The range of LOI was 0%-96%. Among the 93 heterozygosities, we found 23 examples (25%) had LOI >3% and eight examples (9%) had LOI 1-3%. Our results indicate that LOI is common in human placentas. Because LOI in placenta is common, it may be an important new biomarker for influences on prenatal epigenetics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-269
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2008


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