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The parenting hub of the hypothalamus is a focus of imprinted gene action

Higgs, Matthew, Webberley, Anna, Allan, Alasdair, Talat, Moaz, John, Rosalind ORCID: and Isles, Anthony ORCID: 2023. The parenting hub of the hypothalamus is a focus of imprinted gene action. PLoS Genetics 19 (10) , e1010961. 10.1371/journal.pgen.1010961

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Imprinted genes are subject to germline epigenetic modification resulting in parental-specific allelic silencing. Although genomic imprinting is thought to be important for maternal behaviour, this idea is based on serendipitous findings from a small number of imprinted genes. Here, we undertook an unbiased systems biology approach, taking advantage of the recent delineation of specific neuronal populations responsible for controlling parental care, to test whether imprinted genes significantly converge to regulate parenting behaviour. Using single-cell RNA sequencing datasets, we identified a specific enrichment of imprinted gene expression in a recognised “parenting hub”, the galanin-expressing neurons of the preoptic area. We tested the validity of linking enriched expression in these neurons to function by focusing on MAGE family member L2 (Magel2), an imprinted gene not previously linked to parenting behaviour. We confirmed expression of Magel2 in the preoptic area galanin expressing neurons. We then examined the parenting behaviour of Magel2-null(+/p) mice. Magel2-null mothers, fathers and virgin females demonstrated deficits in pup retrieval, nest building and pup-directed motivation, identifying a central role for this gene in parenting. Finally, we show that Magel2-null mothers and fathers have a significant reduction in POA galanin expressing cells, which in turn contributes to a reduced c-Fos response in the POA upon exposure to pups. Our findings identify a novel imprinted gene that impacts parenting behaviour and, moreover, demonstrates the utility of using single-cell RNA sequencing data to predict gene function from expression and in doing so here, have identified a purposeful role for genomic imprinting in mediating parental behaviour.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
ISSN: 1553-7390
Funders: Wellcome Trust, MRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 September 2023
Date of Acceptance: 7 September 2023
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2023 15:27

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