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Reviewed June 2015

What is the official name of the H19 gene?

The official name of this gene is “H19, imprinted maternally expressed transcript (non-protein coding).”

H19 is the gene's official symbol. The H19 gene is also known by other names, listed below.

Read more about gene names and symbols on the About page.

What is the normal function of the H19 gene?

The H19 gene provides instructions for making a molecule called a noncoding RNA. (RNA is a chemical cousin of DNA.) Unlike many genes, the H19 gene does not contain instructions for making a protein. The function of the gene is unknown, but researchers believe that it may act as a tumor suppressor, keeping cells from growing and dividing too fast or in an uncontrolled way. This gene is highly active in various tissues before birth and appears to play an important role in early development.

People inherit one copy of most genes from their mother and one copy from their father. Both copies are typically active, or "turned on," in cells. However, the activity of the H19 gene depends on which parent it was inherited from. Only the copy inherited from a person's mother (the maternally inherited copy) is active; the copy inherited from the father (the paternally inherited copy) is not active. This sort of parent-specific difference in gene activation is caused by a phenomenon called genomic imprinting.

H19 is part of a cluster of genes on the short (p) arm of chromosome 11 that undergo genomic imprinting. Another gene in this cluster, IGF2, is also involved in growth and development. A nearby region of DNA known as imprinting center 1 (IC1) or the H19 differentially methylated region (H19 DMR) controls the parent-specific genomic imprinting of both the H19 and IGF2 genes. The IC1 region undergoes a process called methylation, which is a chemical reaction that attaches small molecules called methyl groups to certain segments of DNA. Methylation, which occurs during the formation of an egg or sperm cell, is a way of marking or "stamping" the parent of origin. The IC1 region is normally methylated only on the paternally inherited copy of chromosome 11.

How are changes in the H19 gene related to health conditions?

Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome - associated with the H19 gene

Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, a condition characterized by overgrowth and other signs and symptoms that affect many parts of the body, can result from changes that affect the IC1 region. In some people with this condition, both the maternally inherited copy and the paternally inherited copy of the IC1 region have methyl groups attached (hypermethylation). Because the IC1 region controls the genomic imprinting of the H19 and IGF2 genes, this abnormality disrupts the regulation of both genes. Specifically, hypermethylation of the IC1 region leads to a loss of H19 gene activity and increased activity of the IGF2 gene in many tissues. A loss of H19 gene activity, which normally restrains growth, and an increase in IGF2 gene activity, which promotes growth, together lead to overgrowth in people with Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.

In a few cases, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome has been caused by deletions of a small amount of DNA from the IC1 region. Like abnormal methylation, these deletions alter the activity of the H19 and IGF2 genes.

Russell-Silver syndrome - associated with the H19 gene

Changes in methylation of the IC1 region are also responsible for some cases of Russell-Silver syndrome, a disorder characterized by slow growth before and after birth. The changes are different than those seen in Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and have the opposite effect on growth.

In Russell-Silver syndrome, the paternally inherited copy of the IC1 region often has too few methyl groups attached (hypomethylation). Hypomethylation of the IC1 region leads to increased activity of the H19 gene and a loss of IGF2 gene activity in many tissues. An increase in H19 gene activity, which restrains growth, and a loss of IGF2 gene activity, which normally promotes growth, together lead to poor growth and short stature in people with Russell-Silver syndrome.

Genetics Home Reference provides information about breast cancer, which is also associated with changes in the H19 gene.

Where is the H19 gene located?

Cytogenetic Location: 11p15.5

Molecular Location on chromosome 11: base pairs 1,995,176 to 1,997,835

(Homo sapiens Annotation Release 107, GRCh38.p2) (NCBIThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.)

The H19 gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 11 at position 15.5.

The H19 gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 11 at position 15.5.

More precisely, the H19 gene is located from base pair 1,995,176 to base pair 1,997,835 on chromosome 11.

See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about H19?

You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about H19 helpful.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for the H19 gene or gene products?

  • ASM
  • ASM1
  • D11S813E
  • H19, imprinted maternally expressed transcript
  • LINC00008
  • MGC4485
  • PRO2605

Where can I find general information about genes?

The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.

These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.

What glossary definitions help with understanding H19?

cancer ; cell ; chromosome ; DNA ; egg ; epigenetic ; expressed ; gene ; imprinting ; inherit ; inherited ; methyl ; methylation ; molecule ; protein ; RNA ; short stature ; sperm ; stature ; syndrome ; transcript ; tumor

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.

See also Understanding Medical Terminology.

References (7 links)


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.

Reviewed: June 2015
Published: February 1, 2016