Animals produced from assisted reproductive technologies suffer from developmental abnormalities and early fetal death at a higher frequency than that observed in those produced by natural breeding. These symptoms are reminiscent of imprinting disruptions in the human and mouse, suggesting the possibility of perturbations in the expression of imprinted genes such as biallelic expression or silencing. H19 is one of the imprinted genes first identified in mice and humans, but its sequence and imprinting status have not been determined in cattle. In the present study, we obtained the majority of the bovine H19 gene sequence (approximately 2311 base pairs), identified a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in exon 5 and determined the frequencies of different alleles containing the SNP. Our analysis demonstrated that, in cattle produced by natural breeding, H19 was indeed imprinted as shown by either predominant or exclusive expression of the maternal allele. We also analyzed the imprinting pattern of H19 in organs of four animals produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer that died shortly after birth or had developed abnormalities that necessitated immediate killing at birth. Three out of four cloned animals showed biallelic expression of H19, supporting our hypothesis that imprinting disruption is present in cloned animals that suffered from developmental abnormalities at birth. Examination of the expression of H19 in the offspring of a cloned animal produced by artificial insemination showed that the imprinting pattern in this animal was indistinguishable from those of control animals, suggesting that either imprinting disruptions in cloned animals are corrected through natural reproduction or that they are not present in healthy cloned animals capable of undergoing natural reproduction.
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