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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Evidence for epigenetic maintenance of Ly49a monoallelic gene expression.

Although structurally unrelated, the human killer cell Ig-like ( KIR) genes and the rodent lectin-like Ly49 genes serve similar functional roles in NK cells. Moreover, both gene families display variegated, monoallelic expression patterns established at the transcriptional level. DNA methylation has been shown to play an important role in maintenance of expression patterns of KIR genes, which have CpG island promoters. The potential role of DNA methylation in expression of Ly49 genes, which have CpG-poor promoters, is unknown. In this study, we show that hypomethylation of the region encompassing the Pro-2 promoter of Ly49a and Ly49c in primary C57BL/6 NK cells correlates with expression of the gene. Using C57BL/6 x BALB/c F1 hybrid mice, we demonstrate that the expressed allele of Ly49a is hypomethylated while the nonexpressed allele is heavily methylated, indicating a role for epigenetics in maintaining monoallelic Ly49 gene expression. Furthermore, the Ly49a Pro-2 region is heavily methylated in fetal NK cells but variably methylated in nonlymphoid tissues. Finally, in apparent contrast to the KIR genes, we show that DNA methylation and the histone acetylation state of the Pro-2 region are strictly linked with Ly49a expression status.[1]


  1. Evidence for epigenetic maintenance of Ly49a monoallelic gene expression. Rouhi, A., Gagnier, L., Takei, F., Mager, D.L. J. Immunol. (2006) [Pubmed]
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