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Vol. 65, Suppl. 3, 2006
Issue release date: April 2006

Imprinted Genes, Placental Development and Fetal Growth

Fowden A.L. · Sibley C. · Reik W. · Constancia M.
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Abstract

In mammals, imprinted genes have an important role in feto-placental development. They affect the growth, morphology and nutrient transfer capacity of the placenta and, thereby, control the nutrient supply for fetal growth. In particular, the reciprocally imprinted Igf2–H19 gene complex has a central role in these processes and matches the placental nutrient supply to the fetal nutrient demands for growth. Comparison of Igf2P0 and complete Igf2 null mice has shown that interplay between placental and fetal Igf2 regulates both placental growth and nutrient transporter abundance. In turn, epigenetic modification of imprinted genes via changes in DNA methylation may provide a mechanism linking environmental cues to placental phenotype, with consequences for development both before and after birth. Changes in expression of imprinted genes, therefore, have major implications for developmental programming and may explain the poor prognosis of the infant born small for gestational age and the wide spectrum of adult-onset diseases that originate in utero.



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