A possible role for imprinted genes in inbreeding avoidance and dispersal from the natal area in mice

Anthony R. Isles, Michael J. Baum, Dan Ma, Abigail Szeto, Eric B. Keverne, Nicholas D. Allen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The expression of a subset of mammalian genes is subject to parent of origin effects (POE), most of which can be explained by genomic imprinting. Analysis of mutant animals has demonstrated that a number of imprinted genes influence brain development and behaviour. Here we provide evidence for POE on olfactory related behaviour and sensitivity to maternal odour cues. This was investigated by examining the odour preference behaviour of reciprocal cross F1 mice made by embryo transfer to genetically unrelated foster parents. We determined that both adult males and females show an avoidance of female urinary odours of their genetic maternal but not paternal origin. This was found not to be due to any previous exposure to these odours or due to self-learning, but may be related to direct effects on the olfactory system, as reciprocal F1 males show differential sensitivity to female odour cues. Currently the most robust theory to explain the evolution of imprinting is the conflict hypothesis that focuses on maternal resource allocation to the developing foetus. Kinship considerations are also likely to be important in the selection of imprinted genes and we discuss our findings within this context, suggesting that imprinted genes act directly on the olfactory system to promote post-weaning dispersal from the natal area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-670
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1492
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2002


  • Genomic imprinting
  • Inbreeding avoidance
  • Mice
  • Olfaction
  • Parent of origin effects


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