Verla Layton

Verla Layton

Modified & Updated: 11 Oct 2023


Genomic imprinting is a fascinating biological phenomenon that occurs in mammals, including humans, where specific genes are expressed in a parent-of-origin manner. It involves the selective modification of gene expression, resulting in certain genes being “imprinted” with epigenetic marks that dictate their transcriptional activity. This process plays a crucial role in various developmental processes, including embryogenesis, placental development, and brain development.

In this article, we will delve into the intriguing world of genomic imprinting and explore 18 astounding facts about this phenomenon. From the discovery of imprinted genes to their implications in human health and disease, we will unravel the captivating intricacies of genomic imprinting and its impact on our understanding of genetics and inheritance.

Table of Contents

Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon.

Genomic imprinting refers to the process by which certain genes are expressed in a parent-of-origin-specific manner, meaning that the expression of these genes is determined by whether they are inherited from the mother or the father.

It affects a small fraction of the genome.

While the majority of genes are expressed from both maternal and paternal alleles, only a small subset of genes undergo imprinting, typically around 100-200 genes in mammals.

Imprints are established during gametogenesis.

The parent-specific imprints on genes are established in the germline cells during the development of eggs and sperm. This occurs through the addition of chemical marks, such as DNA methylation or modifications to histone proteins, which can be maintained through subsequent embryonic development.

The imprints are maintained in somatic cells.

Once the imprints are established, they are preserved in the somatic cells of the developing embryo and throughout the lifespan of the individual. This allows for parent-of-origin effects to be manifested in multiple tissues and organs.

Imprinting disorders can lead to developmental abnormalities.

Disruptions in the normal pattern of imprinting can result in imprinting disorders, which are associated with various developmental abnormalities and conditions, including Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome.

Genomic imprinting is evolutionarily conserved.

Imprinting occurs in a wide range of organisms, from mammals to plants. This suggests that it plays an important role in regulating gene expression and development.

Imprinting can influence behavior.

Some imprinted genes are involved in brain development and function, and alterations in their expression can affect behavior and neurological disorders.

Imprinted genes are regulated by imprinting control regions.

Imprinted genes are regulated by specific regions of DNA called imprinting control regions (ICRs). These regions contain sequences that are differentially methylated or possess other epigenetic marks, which control the parent-of-origin-specific expression of nearby genes.

Imprinting can be reversible.

In some cases, the parent-specific marks on imprinted genes can be erased and reset in the germline cells, allowing for the possibility of resetting the imprinting patterns in subsequent generations.

Imprinting can influence prenatal growth.

Imprinted genes have been shown to play a role in regulating fetal growth and development. Alterations in imprinting can lead to disturbances in prenatal growth and result in conditions such as intrauterine growth restriction.

Genomic imprinting can impact disease susceptibility.

Altered imprinting patterns have been associated with an increased risk of certain diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and neurological disorders.

Genomic imprinting can be affected by environmental factors.

Environmental factors, such as nutrition and exposure to toxins, can influence the establishment and maintenance of genomic imprinting patterns.

Imprinting can vary between individuals.

While imprints are generally consistent within a population, there can be variation between individuals, which may contribute to phenotypic diversity.

Imprinting can be sex-specific.

Some imprinted genes exhibit sex-specific patterns of imprinting, with different expression profiles in males and females.

Genomic imprinting can be studied using animal models.

Animal models, such as mice, have been instrumental in understanding the mechanisms and functional consequences of genomic imprinting.

Imprinting can impact parent-offspring interactions.

Imprinted genes involved in nurturing and parental care behaviors can influence the interactions between parents and offspring.

Imprinting can influence reproductive strategies.

Imprinting affects reproductive strategies, as seen in species where imprinted genes regulate behaviors related to mate choice and parental investment.

Imprinting can be manipulated in the laboratory.

Through techniques such as gene editing and assisted reproduction, researchers can manipulate imprinting patterns in the laboratory to gain further insights into its biological significance.


Genomic imprinting is a fascinating biological phenomenon that plays a crucial role in shaping our development and genetic inheritance. Through the process of imprinting, certain genes from our parents are marked with specific epigenetic modifications that affect their expression. This unique mechanism ensures that the expression of certain genes is determined by their parent of origin.

Throughout this article, we have uncovered 18 astounding facts about genomic imprinting. From the discovery of the first imprinted gene to the impact of imprinting on human health and disease, we have explored the intricate world of epigenetics and its profound implications.

Understanding genomic imprinting sheds light on the complexity of our genetic makeup and provides insights into the mechanisms underlying diseases such as cancer and developmental disorders. Further research in this field will undoubtedly unravel more mysteries and deepen our knowledge of how our genes are regulated and inherited.


Q: What is genomic imprinting?

A: Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic phenomenon where certain genes are marked with specific modifications that affect their expression based on their parent of origin.

Q: How does genomic imprinting occur?

A: Genomic imprinting occurs through DNA methylation, a chemical modification that tags one copy of a gene during gamete formation. This imprint influences gene expression in offspring.

Q: What is the purpose of genomic imprinting?

A: The purpose of genomic imprinting is to regulate the expression of specific genes, allowing for the appropriate development of embryos and proper functioning of various tissues and organs.

Q: Are all genes subject to genomic imprinting?

A: No, only a fraction of genes in the genome are subject to imprinting, and the pattern of imprinting can vary between different tissues and species.

Q: Can genomic imprinting be inherited?

A: Yes, imprinted genes can be inherited from one generation to another. However, the specific pattern of imprinting is often reset during gamete formation.