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Keywords:

  • genomic imprinting;
  • sexual dimorphism;
  • Turner syndrome;
  • X chromosome

Abstract

Turner syndrome is caused by loss of all or part of an X chromosome in females. A series of recent studies has characterized phenotypic differences between Turner females retaining the intact maternally inherited versus paternally inherited X chromosome, which have been interpreted as evidence for effects of X-linked imprinted genes. In this study I demonstrate that the differences between Turner females with a maternal X and a paternal X broadly parallel the differences between males and normal females for a large suite of traits, including lipid profile and visceral fat, response to growth hormone, sensorineural hearing loss, congenital heart and kidney malformations, neuroanatomy (sizes of the cerebellum, hippocampus, caudate nuclei and superior temporal gyrus), and aspects of cognition. This pattern indicates that diverse aspects of human sex differences are mediated in part by X-linked genes, via genomic imprinting of such genes, higher rates of mosaicism in Turner females with an intact X chromosome of paternal origin, karyotypic differences between Turner females with a maternal versus paternal X chromosome, or some combination of these phenomena. Determining the relative contributions of genomic imprinting, karyotype and mosaicism to variation in Turner syndrome phenotypes has important implications for both clinical treatment of individuals with this syndrome, and hypotheses for the evolution and development of human sexual dimorphism.