Regulation of genomic imprinting by gametic and embryonic processes.
Parental genomic imprinting refers to the phenomenon by which alleles behave differently depending on the sex of the parent from which they are inherited. In the case of the murine transgene RSVIgmyc, imprinting is manifest in two ways: differential DNA methylation and differential expression. In inbred FVB/N mice, a transgene inherited from a male parent is undermethylated and expressed; a transgene inherited from the female parent is overmethylated and silent. Using a series of RSVIgmyc constructs and transgenic mice, we show that the imprinting of this transgene requires a cis-acting signal that is principally derived from the repeat sequences that make up the 3' portion of the murine immunoglobulin alpha heavy-chain switch region. Such imprinting is relatively independent of the site of transgene insertion but is influenced by the structure of the transgene itself. Imprinting is also modulated by genetic background. Detailed studies indicate that the paternal allele is undermethylated and expressed in inbred FVB/N mice and in heterozygous F1 FVB/N/C57Bl/6J mice but is overmethylated and silent in inbred C57Bl/6J mice. Consequently, the FVB/N genome appears to carry alleles of modulating genes that dominantly block methylation and permit expression of the paternally imprinted transgene. Furthermore, our results suggest that overmethylation is the default status of both parental alleles and that the paternal allele can be marked in trans by polymorphic factors that act in postblastocyst embryos.