A maternal-offspring coadaptation theory for the evolution of genomic imprinting


Wolf, J. B. and Hager, R., 2006. A maternal-offspring coadaptation theory for the evolution of genomic imprinting. PLoS Biology, 4 (12), e380.

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    Imprinted genes are expressed either from the maternally or paternally inherited copy only, and they play a key role in regulating complex biological processes, including offspring development and mother–offspring interactions. There are several competing theories attempting to explain the evolutionary origin of this monoallelic pattern of gene expression, but a prevailing view has emerged that holds that genomic imprinting is a consequence of conflict between maternal and paternal gene copies over maternal investment. However, many imprinting patterns and the apparent overabundance of maternally expressed genes remain unexplained and may be incompatible with current theory. Here we demonstrate that sole expression of maternal gene copies is favored by natural selection because it increases the adaptive integration of offspring and maternal genomes, leading to higher offspring fitness. This novel coadaptation theory for the evolution of genomic imprinting is consistent with results of recent studies on epigenetic effects, and it provides a testable hypothesis for the origin of previously unexplained major imprinting patterns across different taxa. In conjunction with existing hypotheses, our results suggest that imprinting may have evolved due to different selective pressures at different loci.


    Item Type Articles
    CreatorsWolf, J. B.and Hager, R.
    DepartmentsFaculty of Science > Biology & Biochemistry
    Publisher Statementjournal.pbio.0040380.pdf: © 2006 Wolf and Hager. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
    ID Code18356


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