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Angelman syndrome imprinting center encodes a transcriptional promoter

Lewis, Michael W., Brant, Jason O., Kramer, Joseph M., Moss, James I., Yang, Thomas P., Hansen, Peter J., Williams, R. Stan, Resnick, James L.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2015 v.112 no.22 pp. 6871-6875
DNA, alleles, cattle, gene expression, humans, loci, models, nucleotide sequences, oocytes, transcription (genetics)
Clusters of imprinted genes are often controlled by an imprinting center that is necessary for allele-specific gene expression and to reprogram parent-of-origin information between generations. An imprinted domain at 15q11–q13 is responsible for both Angelman syndrome (AS) and Prader–Willi syndrome (PWS), two clinically distinct neurodevelopmental disorders. Angelman syndrome arises from the lack of maternal contribution from the locus, whereas Prader–Willi syndrome results from the absence of paternally expressed genes. In some rare cases of PWS and AS, small deletions may lead to incorrect parent-of-origin allele identity. DNA sequences common to these deletions define a bipartite imprinting center for the AS–PWS locus. The PWS–smallest region of deletion overlap (SRO) element of the imprinting center activates expression of genes from the paternal allele. The AS–SRO element generates maternal allele identity by epigenetically inactivating the PWS–SRO in oocytes so that paternal genes are silenced on the future maternal allele. Here we have investigated functional activities of the AS–SRO, the element necessary for maternal allele identity. We find that, in humans, the AS–SRO is an oocyte-specific promoter that generates transcripts that transit the PWS–SRO. Similar upstream promoters were detected in bovine oocytes. This result is consistent with a model in which imprinting centers become DNA methylated and acquire maternal allele identity in oocytes in response to transiting transcription.