Insulin VNTR allele-specific effect in type 1 diabetes depends on identity of untransmitted paternal allele

Simon T. Bennett, Amanda J. Wilson, Laura Esposito, Nourdine Bouzekri, Dag E. Undlien, Francesco Cucca, Lorenza Nisticò, Raffaella Buzzetti, Emanuele Bosi, Flemming Pociot, Jørn Nerup, Anne Cambon-Thomsen, Alberto Pugliese, Julian P.H. Shield, Patricia A. McKinney, Stephen C. Bain, Constantin Polychronakos, John A. Todd, P. Pozzilli, N. VisalliM. Baroni, E. Fioriti, C. Mesturino, A. Signore, M. Cavallo, L. Lucentini, M. Matteoli, A. Crinó, C. Teodonio, R. Amoretti, A. Tombesi, M. Ruggeri, L. Pisano, C. Suraci, M. Pennafina, B. Boscherini, S. Stoduto, M. Fonte, M. Mancabitti, G. Multari, M. Suppa, G. De Mattia, M. Cassone Faldetta, O. Laurenti, G. Marietti, D. Pitocco, F. Ferrazzoli, C. Bizzarri, G. Ghirlanda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


The IDDM2 type 1 diabetes susceptibility locus was mapped to and identified as allelic variation at the insulin gene (INS) VNTR regulatory polymorphism. In Caucasians; INS VNTR alleles divide into two discrete size classes. Class I alleles (26 to 63 repeats) predispose in a recessive way to type 1 diabetes, while class III alleles (140 to more than 200 repeats) are dominantly protective. The protective effect may be explained by higher levels of class III VNTR-associated INS mRNA in thymus such that elevated levels of preproinsulin protein enhance immune tolerance to preproinsulin, a key autoantigen in type 1 diabetes pathogenesis. The mode of action of IDDM2 is complicated, however, by parent-of-origin effects and possible allelic heterogeneity within the two defined allele classes. We have now analysed transmission of specific VNTR alleles in 1,316 families and demonstrate that a particular class I allele does not predispose to disease when paternally inherited, suggestive of polymorphic imprinting. But this paternal effect is observed only when the father's untransmitted allele is a class III. This allelic interaction is reminiscent of epigenetic phenomena observed in plants (for example, paramutation; ref. 17) and in yeast (for example, trans- inactivation; ref. 18). If untransmitted chromosomes can have functional effects on the biological properties of transmitted chromosomes, the implications for human genetics and disease are potentially considerable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-352
Number of pages3
JournalNature genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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