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Example Of Imprinting: The Igf2 Gene

One of the best-studied imprinted genes is the one that encodes an insulin-like growth factor called growth factor 2 (IGF2). In this gene, the paternal copy is active, whereas the maternal copy is inactive. Imagine that two parents have produced a female child. During egg formation in the mother (or shortly after fertilization), the mother's copy of the IGF2 gene is methylated, rendering it transcriptionally silent. The child uses only the paternal allele to make the growth factor. However, when this child makes her own eggs, neither copy of the gene will remain active, because the alleles will have been "restamped" as coming from a female. The active allele she used throughout life is passed on in an inactive form to her children.

The protein encoded by the IGF2 gene is a growth factor, which stimulates the growth of target cells. Failure to properly imprint the maternal allele, or inheritance of two copies of the male allele, can have important consequences. For example, the expression of two copies of the IGF2 gene is associated with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, a growth disorder, accompanied by an increase in a type of cancer called Wilms tumor. Other human cancers are also associated with improper imprinting (of other genes), causing either too much or too little gene expression.

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Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 2Imprinting - Gene Expression In Imprinted And Nonimprinted Genes, Timing And Mechanism Of Imprinting, Example Of Imprinting: The Igf2 Gene