SINGLE NUCLEOTIDE POLYMORPHISMS
ORIGIN EFFECT DATABASE
OVINE CALLIPYGE LOCUS
The phenomenon of genomic imprinting, whereby a subset of mammalian genes display parent-of-origin-specific monoallelic expression, is one of the most active areas of epigenetics research. Over the past two decades, more than 100 imprinted mammalian genes have been identified, while considerable advances have been made in elucidating the molecular mechanisms governing imprinting. These studies have helped to unravel the epigenome - a separate layer of regulatory information contained in eukaryotic chromosomes that influences gene expression and phenotypes without involving changes to the underlying DNA sequence. Although most studies of genomic imprinting in mammals have focussed on mouse models or human biomedical disorders, there is burgeoning interest in the phenotypic effects of imprinted genes in domestic livestock species. In particular, research has focused on imprinted genes influencing foetal growth and development, which are associated with economically important production traits in cattle, sheep and pigs. These findings, when coupled with the data emerging from the various different livestock genome projects, have major implications for the future of animal breeding, health and management. Here, we review current scientific knowledge regarding genomic imprinting in livestock species and evaluate how this information can be used in modern livestock improvement programmes.