Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Dad’s Genes Build Placentas

Published: Monday, August 12, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, August 12, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Though placentas support the fetus and mother, it turns out that the organ grows according to blueprints from dad.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June, shows that the genes in a fetus that come from the father dominate in building the fetal side of the placenta.

Genes work in pairs: one from each parent. But about 1 percent of mammalian genes choose sides, a phenomenon called genomic imprinting. Imprinted genes use molecules that bind to DNA (epigenetic tags) to quiet one half and let the other lead. In the study, the researchers discovered 78 new imprinted genes using horse-donkey hybrids.

“This is the first study to offer an unbiased profile of novel imprinted genes in a mammal other than mice,” said lead author Xu Wang, a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Andrew Clark, professor of molecular biology and genetics and the study’s senior author.

Using mouse studies, only about 100 genes with imprinted expression had been identified. To determine whether other genes exhibit imprinted expression, Wang and colleagues sequenced all of the expressed genes (the transcriptome) of hinnies (whose mothers are donkeys; fathers horses) and mules (whose mothers are horses; fathers donkeys) and looked for parent-of-origin differences.

Because the genomes of horses and donkeys differ by approximately one in every 200 base pairs (differences called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs), the paternal versus maternal contributions in their offspring can be genetically tracked. Using SNPs, the authors were able to identify the parent-of-origin for 7,000 genes.

Of those genes, transcriptome data from placental tissue revealed that 93 genes were imprinted. While only 15 of the 40 known imprinted human genes were identified in this set, their expression bias was identical to that of humans, indicating a highly conserved function for these genes between the horse family and humans.

“[The other 78 candidates] were partially imprinted, not 100 percent,” indicating a highly dynamic process, said Wang.

“Genomic imprinting in the placenta may be an adaptive mechanism [that promotes functional] plasticity in response to changing environmental conditions during gestation,” according to the study.

Strikingly, a majority of the imprinted candidates were paternally expressed, and this expression bias was lost when the transcriptomes of fetal tissues were examined. At the same time, as in mice, paternally imprinted genes heavily regulate placental development in these animals.

“Mouse experiments showed that if all DNA comes from the mother, the embryo grows quite well, but not the placenta, suggesting some degree of sex-based division of labor between programming the placenta and the embryo,” said Wang. “Our results confirm what these past findings suggested.”

The methods used in the study may also help breeders.

“This discovery explains what breeders call the maternal grandsire effect,” said co-senior author Doug Antczak, equine geneticist at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “Some genes, like so-called speed genes in great racehorses, skip a generation and only express in grandchildren if their carrier was a certain sex. For example, most foals of history’s best racehorse, Secretariat, raced poorly. So did his sons’ offspring. But many of his daughters’ foals were outstanding racehorses. We’ve developed a new approach that can identify imprinted genes that may be linked to racehorse traits and which could help breeders’ decision-making.”

Better understanding of genomic imprinting may offer insights into several human diseases. Mistakes in imprinting genes can impair development, spurring genetic problems that can cause gigantism, dwarfism, neurological failures, incomplete sexual development and others.

Funding was provided by the Cornell Center for Vertebrate Genomics, Zweig Memorial Fund and Morris Animal Foundation.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Tumor-suppressing Gene Lends Insight to Cancer Treatment
Researchers have found that delicate replication process derails if a gene named PTEN has mutated or is absent.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
$5.5M NSF Grant Aims to Improve Rice Crops with Genome Editing
Researchers to precisely target, cut, remove and replace DNA in a living cell to improve rice.
Friday, May 08, 2015
A ‘STAR’ is Born: Engineers Devise Genetic 'On' Switch
A new “on” switch to control gene expression has been developed by Cornell scientists.
Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Computer Model Reveals Cancer's Energy Source
Findings focused on the energy-making process in cancer cells known as the Warburg Effect.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
For Cancer Patients, Sugar-Coated Cells are Deadly
Paszek’s lab will focus on developing high-resolution microscopy to further study cell membrane-related cancer mechanisms.
Friday, June 27, 2014
Shark, Human Proteins are Surprisingly Similar
Despite widespread fascination with sharks, the world’s oldest ocean predators have long been a genetic mystery.
Friday, December 06, 2013
Gold-Plated Nano-Bits Find, Destroy Cancer Cells
Scientists have merged tiny gold and iron oxide particles, then added antibody guides to steer them through the bloodstream toward colorectal cancer cells.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Using Genes to Rescue Animal and Plants from Extinction
With estimates of losing 15 to 40 percent of the world’s species over the next four decades researchers whether science should employ genetic engineering to the rescue.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Physicists Tease out Twisted Torques of DNA
Like an impossibly twisted telephone cord, DNA, the molecule that encodes genetic information, also often finds itself twisted into coils.
Monday, July 01, 2013
Expelled DNA that Traps Toxins May Backfire in Obese
The body’s most powerful immune cells may have a radical way of catching their prey that could backfire on people who are overweight.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Genetic Switches Play Big Role in Human Evolution
Study offers further proof that the divergence of humans from chimpanzees was profoundly influenced by mutations to DNA sequences.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Genome Offers Clues to Amphibian-Killing Fungus
A fungus that has decimated amphibians globally is much older than previously thought.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Scientists Find Clues to Some Inherited Heart Diseases
Cornell researchers have uncovered the basic cell biology that helps explain heart defects found in diseases known as laminopathies.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Scientists Develop World's Smallest Drug Deliverer
Cornell researchers have created a pore in “Cornell Dots” – brightly glowing nanoparticles nicknamed C-Dots – that can carry medicine.
Friday, April 12, 2013
DNA Editor Named Runner-up Breakthrough of 2012
A discovery that allows life scientists to precisely edit genomes for everything from crop and livestock improvement to human gene and cell therapy was named runner-up for Science magazine's 2012 Breakthrough of the Year.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Scientific News
Genetic Defences of Bacteria Don’t Aid Antibiotic Resistance
Genetic responses to the stresses caused by antibiotics don’t help bacteria to evolve a resistance to the medications, according to a new study by Oxford University researchers.
Tolerant Immune System Increases Cancer Risk
Researchers have found that individuals with high immunoCRIT ratios may have an increased risk of developing certain cancers.
Developing a Gel that Mimics Human Breast for Cancer Research
Scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham have been funded to develop a gel that will match many of the biological structures of human breast tissue, to advance cancer research and reduce animal testing.
Lung Repair and Regeneration Gene Discovered
New role for hedgehog gene offers better understanding of lung disease.
3 Ways Viruses Have Changed Science for the Better
Viruses are really good at what they do, and we’ve been able to harness their skills to learn about – and potentially improve – human health in several ways.
Mixed Up Cell Transportation Key Piece of ALS and Dementia Puzzle
Researchers from the University of Toronto are one step closer to solving this incredibly complex puzzle, offering hope for treatment.
New Gene Therapy for Vision Loss From a Mitochondrial Disease
NIH-funded study shows success in targeting mitochondrial DNA in mice.
Five New Genetic Variants Linked to Brain Cancer Identified
The biggest ever study of DNA from people with glioma – the most common form of brain cancer – has discovered five new genetic variants associated with the disease.
Predictive Model for Breast Cancer Progression
Biomedical engineers have demonstrated a proof-of-principle technique that could give women and their oncologists more personalized information to help them choose options for treating breast cancer.
Fatty Liver Disease and Scarring Have Strong Genetic Component
Researchers say that hepatic fibrosis, which involves scarring of the liver that can result in dysfunction and, in severe cases, cirrhosis and cancer, may be as much a consequence of genetics as environmental factors.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos