Using next-generation RNA sequencing to identify imprinted genes

Genomic imprinting is manifested as differential allelic expression (DAE) depending on the parent-of-origin. The most direct way to identify imprinted genes is to directly score the DAE in a context where one can identify which parent transmitted each allele. Because many genes display DAE, simply scoring DAE in an individual is not sufficient to identify imprinted genes.

In this paper, researchers from Cornell University outline many technical aspects of a scheme for identification of imprinted genes that makes use of RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) from tissues isolated from F1 offspring derived from the pair of reciprocal crosses. Ideally, the parental lines are from two inbred strains that are not closely related to each other. Aspects of tissue purity, RNA extraction, library preparation and bioinformatic inference of imprinting are all covered. These methods have already been applied in a number of organisms, and one of the most striking results is the evolutionary fluidity with which novel imprinted genes are gained and lost within genomes. The general methodology is also applicable to a wide range of other biological problems that require quantification of allele-specific expression using RNA-seq, such as cis-regulation of gene expression, X chromosome inactivation and random monoallelic expression.


Wang X, Clark AG. (2014) Using next-generation RNA sequencing to identify imprinted genes. Heredity (Edinb) [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]