Functional genomic imprinting is necessary for the transfer of maternal resources to mammalian embryos. Imprint-free embryos are unable to establish a viable placental vascular network necessary for the transfer of resources such as nutrients and oxygen. How the parental origin of inherited genes influences cellular response to resource limitation is currently not well understood. Because such limitations are initially realized by the placenta, we studied how maternal and paternal genomes influence the cellular self-destruction responses of this organ specifically. Here, we show that cellular autophagy is prevalent in androgenetic (i.e. having only a paternal genome) placentae, while apoptosis is prevalent in parthenogenetic (i.e. having only a maternal genome) placentae. Our findings indicate that the parental origin of inherited genes determines the placenta's cellular death pathway: autophagy for androgenotes and apoptosis for parthenogenotes. The difference in time of arrest between androgenotes and parthenogenotes can be attributed, at least in part, to their placentae's selective use of these two cell death pathways. We anticipate our findings to be a starting point for general studies on the parent-of-origin regulation of autophagy. Furthermore, our work opens the door to new studies on the involvement of autophagy in pathologies of pregnancy in which the restricted transfer of maternal resources is diagnosed.
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