Sexual reproduction results from the fusion of gametes in which the chromatin configuration of maternal and paternal chromosomes is distinct at fertilization. Although many of the differences are erased during successive cellular divisions and chromatin modifications, some are retained in both somatic and germline cells. These epigenetic modifications can confer different characteristics on maternal and paternal chromosomes and such differences can be selected during any process that has the ability to distinguish between homologues. The end result of these selective forces are parental origin effects, writ large. The range of effects observed, including transcriptional imprinting and effects on chromosome segregation and heterochromatization, reflects the diversity of selective forces in operation. However, a closer look at these effects suggests that parental origin–dependent differences in chromatin structure might be subject to some common forces and that these forces may explain many of the “nontranscriptional” parental origin effects observed in mammals.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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