• By The Financial District


Mothers leave their mark on their children in many ways -- and Australian researchers have discovered a protein called SMCHD1 is involved in this 'imprinting' process, ScienceDaily reported.

SMCHD1 switches certain genes off, altering how a cell behaves. The new research has revealed that when an egg cell (or oocyte) is fertilized by a sperm, the egg cell's SMCHD1 lingers within the developing embryo, switching off at least 10 different genes and impacting the embryo's development -- which could potentially have a lifelong impact on the offspring.

The research was published in eLife by a team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) led by Ms. Iromi Wanigasuriya, Dr. Quentin Gouil and Professor Marnie Blewitt, in collaboration with WEHI's Dr. Matthew Ritchie, Dr. Heather Lee from the University of Newcastle and Associate Professor Karla Hutt from Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute. "We investigated whether a mother's SMCHD1 protein could be transferred into a newly formed embryo, and how this impacted the expression of imprinted genes," Ms Wanigasuriya said. "Using advanced microscopy to follow a fluorescently tagged version of SMCHD1, we could see that the maternal SMCHD1 protein persisted within embryos for at least five cell divisions. The mother's SMCHD1 altered the imprinted gene expression -- potentially leaving a lasting legacy in the offspring."

Some genes have different expression, depending on whether they have been inherited from the mother or father -- a phenomenon called genomic imprinting. WEHI researchers have discovered that the protein SMCHD1 is involved in genomic imprinting, with protein from the mother lingering in an embryo and switching 10 genes off. The discovery sheds new light on how genomic imprinting occurs, and may reveal new clues to how SMCHD1 contributes to certain developmental and degenerative disorders.