Developmental aspects of X chromosome inactivation in eutherian and metatherian mammals

John L. VandeBerg

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Scopus citations


    The single active X principle has served for two decades as a focal point for research on the cyclic activation and inactivation of gene loci. Differences in X chromosome inactivation patterns of eutherian and marsupial mammals provide probes for investigating the mechanisms of the X inactivation process. In eutherian mammals, the X chromosome is inactivated early in meiotic prophase in males and remains inactive throughout the rest of spermatogenesis. During meiosis in females, the inactive X chromosome is activated so that both X chromosomes are active in oocytes. During the early cleavage divisions of female embryos, the paternally derived X is activated. It and the maternally derived X remain active until differentiation begins in early embryogenesis. At that time, the paternally derived X is inactivated in cells that give rise to extraembryonic membranes, whereas a random process determines which X chromosome is inactivated in cells that give rise to the embryo itself. Although less is known about developmental aspects of X inactivation in female marsupials, it is clear that the paternal X is preferentially inactive in postembryonic somatic cells. Furthermore, the paternal X is partially active at some loci in some cell types, indicating that it is not regulated as a single unit. The successful adaptation of a small (80–150 g), fecund marsupial to simple laboratory conditions now enables extensive experimentation on the large number of marsupials at various developmental stages. This capability, coupled with the application of newly developed cellular and molecular techniques to questions about X chromosome inactivation, shows great promise for advancing our understanding of the mechanisms that control the cyclic behavior of X chromosome activity.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)271-286
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Nov 1983


    • dosage compensation
    • embryogenesis
    • gametogenesis
    • marsupial

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Animal Science and Zoology


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