Molar Pregnancies and Genome Imprinting

Discussion in 'Science' started by Petrel, Feb 14, 2006.

  1. Petrel

    Petrel
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    So the forum lately has been hijacked for theistic evolutionist bashing, so I'm posting a thread to get things back on track.

    A few years ago I found myself wondering--why does a molar pregnancy not involve an embryo?

    For those who don't know about this, a molar pregnancy (hydatidiform mole) occurs when an egg somehow ends up without its maternal DNA. When it is fertilized it contains only half of the DNA needed. This paternal DNA then copies itself, so the zygote formed contains the 46 chromosomes we need for development. Assuming the sex chromosome contributed by the father is X, the zygote should grow into a baby girl. However, then development goes drastically wrong. Instead of dividing and growing to form the embryo and the placenta needed to feed it, it divides and starts forming beads of placenta-like tissue. This tissue may become invasive and cause a type of cancer called a choriocarcinoma. The usual treatment once molar pregnancy is diagnosed is curettage to remove the abnormal tissue and sometimes even hysterectomy.

    This is a complete hydatidiform mole, there is also a partial hydatidiform mole caused by two sperm fertilizing one egg to produce a triploid (69n) zygote, but it makes immediate sense that that would not be viable.

    No source that I read talked about the reason for this at all, so I turned to journals. I ran across an article involving experiments with mice where they made zygotes containing either all paternal DNA or all maternal DNA. When all maternal DNA was used, the embryo began development normally, but the placenta did not form and the embryos eventually died. When all paternal DNA was used, the case was similar to that of a complete mole--placenta-like tissue proliferated, but the embryo did not form.

    It ends out that the reason for this difference is a process called genome imprinting. Imprinting in mammals involves patterns of DNA methylation. Not much is known about imprinting, and it serves different roles at different times of development. When gametes are formed their DNA is methylated in a different fashion depending on whether they are eggs or sperm. When they combine, the methylation pattern of each DNA duplex determines whether its genes are used in the growth of the placenta or the embryo. During embryo growth, the genome imprinting of the maternal and paternal DNA is erased and then the embryo re-methylates the DNA in a manner that permits proper transcription control for that point in development.

    Here is a page that talks more about genome imprinting and its significance.
     
  2. Deacon

    Deacon
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    I sure hope your interest wasn’t due to any personal involvement.

    One of my hobbies is the propagation of daylilies.

    A “normal” daylily has 22 chromosomes (receiving 11 from the egg, and 11 the sperm cells).
    By using colchicine (a natural occurring toxin from the autumn crocus) you can produce triploid (33) and tetraploid (44) plants.

    Triploid daylilies are sterile; the gametes can’t divide equally in half (technically it’s possible but it’s like the average American family of 2.2 children; you can’t find one).

    Now occasionally a variant occurs when a diploid daylily producing unreduced gametes (22 gametes in the egg or pollen cell) is crossed with a tetraploid daylily (containing 44 chromosomes), (…so you have 22 gametes crossing with 22 gametes)…ending up with a fertile match (44 chromosomes) walla, a new type of tetraploid daylily.

    What’s the advantage for the daylily enthusiast? More chromosomes equal more information resulting in thicker, stronger daylilies with more color variations.

    Fortunately once produced (and deemed worthy), these daylilies are propagated through division of their roots.

    Rob
     
  3. Petrel

    Petrel
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    No, fortunately, I imagine that would be as upsetting as a miscarriage and possibly worse if there was fear of cancer. I first ran across a detailed discussion of this in one of my friend's nursing books in college, but they didn't explain the role of genome imprinting. I thought about it again several years later when I was doing some reading about chromosome abnormalities.

    It's interesting how polyploidy plays such a role in the development of new plant species, but it's almost always a fatal event in animals. However, I believe Uteotw posted some evidence before that radiation of an ancestral tetrapod followed a polyploidy event. It would have been interesting to watch that occur. I will try to look it up later if I have time.
     
  4. Petrel

    Petrel
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    It ends out that fish tend to go polyploid all the time!

    "Occurrence of polyploidy in the fishes." Leggatt, R.; Iwama, G. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 2003, 13, 237-246.

    I expect that polyploidy may be more common in amphibians and reptiles than I expect as well, and I will look into this.
     

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