Is imprinting the result of “friendly fire” by the host defense system?

Miroslava Ondičová, Rebecca J. Oakey, Colum P. Walsh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In 1993, Denise Barlow proposed that genomic imprinting might have arisen from a host defense mechanism designed to inactivate retrotransposons. Although there were few examples at hand, she suggested that there should be maternal-specific and paternal-specific factors involved, with cognate imprinting boxes that they recognized; furthermore, the system should build on conserved biochemical factors, including DNA methylation, and maternal control should predominate for imprints. Here, we revisit this hypothesis in the light of recent advances in our understanding of host defense and DNA methylation and in particular, the link with Krüppel-associated box–zinc finger (KRAB-ZF) proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1008599
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


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