Large-Scale Evaluation of Imprinting Status in the Prader-Willi Syndrome Region: An Imprinted Direct Repeat Cluster Resembling Small Nucleolar RNA Genes

Makiko Meguro
Department of Molecular and Cell Genetics; Tottori University

Loss of paternal gene expression at the imprinted domain on proximal human chromosome 15 causes Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), a complex multiple-anomaly disorder involving variable mental retardation, hyperphasia leading to obesity and infantile hypotonia with failure to thrive. Although numerous paternally expressed transcripts have been identified that reside in the candidate region, the individual contributions to the development of PWS have not been firmly established. Recent studies of mouse models carrying a cytogenetic deletion suggest that paternal deficiency of the SNRPN-IPW interval is critical for perinatal lethality of potential relevance to PWS. Here we determined the allelic expression profiles of a total of 118 cDNA clones using monochromosomal hybrids retaining either a paternal or maternal human chromosome 15. Our results demonstrated a preponderance of unusual transcripts lacking protein-coding potential that were expressed exclusively from the paternal copy of the critical interval.

This interval was also found to encompass a large direct repeat (DR) cluster displaying a potentially active chromatin conformation of paternal origin, as suggested by enhanced sensitivity to nuclease digestion. Database searches revealed an unexpected organization of tandemly repeated consensus elements, all of which possessed well-defined box C and D sequences characteristic of small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs). Southern blot analysis further demonstrated a considerable degree of phylogenetic conservation of the DR locus in the genomes of all mammalian species tested, but not in chicken, Xenopus and Drosophila. These findings imply a potential direct contribution of the DR locus, representing a cluster of multiple snoRNA genes, to certain phenotypic features of PWS.