Analysis of candidate imprinted genes in PWS subjects with atypical genetics: a possible inactivating mutation in the SNURF/SNRPN minimal promoter
The mouse Snrpn gene encodes the Smn protein, which is involved in RNA splicing. The gene maps to a region in the central part of chromosome 7 that is syntenic to the Prader-Willi/Angelman syndromes (PWS-AS) region on human chromosome 15q11-q13. The mouse gene, like its human counterpart, is imprinted and paternally expressed, primarily in brain and heart. We provide here a detailed description of the structural features and differential methylation pattern of the gene. We have identified a maternally methylated region at the 5' end (DMR1), which correlates inversely with the Snrpn paternal expression. We also describe a region at the 3' end of the gene (DMR2) that is preferentially methylated on the paternal allele. Analysis of Snrpn mRNA levels in a methylase-deficient mouse embryo revealed that maternal methylation of DMR1 may play a role in silencing the maternal allele. Yet both regions, DMR1 and DMR2, inherit the parental-specific methylation profile from the gametes. This methylation pattern is erased in 12.5-days postcoitum (dpc) primordial germ cells and reestablished during gametogenesis. DMR1 is remethylated during oogenesis, whereas DMR2 is remethylated during spermatogenesis. Once established, these methylation patterns are transmitted to the embryo and maintained, protected from methylation changes during embryogenesis and cell differentiation. Transfections of DMR1 and DMR2 into embryonic stem cells and injection into pronuclei of fertilized eggs reveal that embryonic cells lack the capacity to establish anew the differential methylation pattern of Snrpn. That all PWS patients lack DMR1, together with the overall high resemblance of the mouse gene to the human SNRPN, offers an excellent experimental tool to study the regional control of this imprinted chromosomal domain.