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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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

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

King's Authors


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.

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