Parent-specific gene expression (genomic imprinting) is an evolutionary puzzle because it forgoes an important advantage of diploidy--protection against the effects of deleterious recessive mutations. Three hypotheses claim to have found a countervailing selective advantage of parent-specific expression. Imprinting is proposed to have evolved because it enhances evolvability in a changing environment, protects females against the ravages of invasive trophoblast, or because natural selection acts differently on genes of maternal and paternal origin in interactions among kin. The last hypothesis has received the most extensive theoretical development and seems the best supported by the properties of known imprinted genes. However, the hypothesis is yet to provide a compelling explanation for many examples of imprinting.
Wilkins, Jon FHaig, DavidengReviewEngland2003/05/03 05:00Nat Rev Genet. 2003 May;4(5):359-68.