Imprinted genes are expressed predominantly or exclusively from one allele only. This mode of gene expression makes the regulation of imprinted genes susceptible to epigenetic insults, which may in turn lead to disease. There is compelling experimental evidence that certain aspects of assisted reproductive technology (ART) such as in vitro cell culture may have adverse effects on the regulation of epigenetic information in mammalian embryos, including the disruption of imprinted genes and epigenetic regulators. Moreover, in humans, disorders of genomic imprinting have been reported in children conceived by ART. The derivation and in vitro culture of embryonic stem (ES) cells are potential points of origin for epigenetic abnormalities. There is evidence that defects of genomic imprinting occur in mouse embryonic stem cells, with similar data now emerging in related studies in non-human primate and human ES cells. It is therefore pertinent to rigorously assess the epigenetic status of all stem cells and their derivatives prior to their therapeutic use in humans. Focusing on the stability of genomic imprinting, this review discusses the current evidence for epigenetic disruption in mammalian embryonic stem cells in light of the epigenetic disruption observed in ART-derived mammalian embryos.
Keywords: Imprinting, embryonic stem cells, assisted reproduction, imprinted, epigenetic
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