Navigation Links
Life experiences put their stamp on the next generation: New insights from epigenetics
Date:2/14/2013

Philadelphia, PA, February 14, 2013 The 18th century natural philosopher Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that the necks of giraffes lengthened as a consequence of the cumulative effort, across generations, to reach leaves just out of their grasp. This view of evolution was largely abandoned with the advent of modern genetic theories to explain the transmission of most important traits and many medical illnesses across generations.

However, there has long been the impression that major life events, like psychological traumas, not only have effects on individuals who directly experience these events, but also have effects on their children. For example, cross-generational effects have been well-documented in the children of Nazi death camp survivors. Similar issues have been reported in the context of mood disorders and addiction. Until recently, these trans-generational effects were attributed to changes in the way that parents treated their children or the child's reaction to learning about the parent's history.

In the most recent issue of Biological Psychiatry, Swiss researchers from the University of Zurich and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, led by Dr. Isabelle Mansuy, discuss how the emergence of the field of epigenetics has introduced a new component to this discussion the trans-generational transmission of changes in the regulation of gene expression.

"The question of the inheritance of acquired traits has puzzled biologists and clinicians for decades. Although it has been consistently observed as early as in the 18th century, the time has now come that sufficiently strong and convincing evidence has accumulated to firmly accept it," said Mansuy.

The genetic transmission of traits reflects alterations in genetic structure, i.e., the base pairs that form DNA. Epigenetics, on the other hand, involves cellular processes that do not alter the structure of DNA. Instead, epigenetic mechanisms, including the methylation of DNA or of specific residues on histone "supporter" proteins, influence the extent to which individual genes are converted into messenger RNA. These changes can occur in any cell of the body, but when they occur in the germ cells (sperm or eggs) the changes may be passed to the next generation.

The changes in DNA structure are random events that acquire functional significance in the context of Darwin's "natural selection" process. In contrast, the epigenetic reactions to specific environments are designed to enable that organism to cope with that context. When these traits are passed to the next generation, it is as if the newborn arrives prepared for that specific environment. Problems arise when the epigenetic processes give rise to traits that are not adaptive for the offspring, such as heightened stress reactivity, or when the environment has changed.

"This is a remarkable story with far-reaching implications," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "There is a suspicion that epigenetic processes may be reversed more easily than genetic traits, exemplified by the development of HDAC inhibitors. This is a rapidly evolving research area that has captured a great deal of attention."


'/>"/>
Contact: Rhiannon Bugno
Biol.Psych@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-0880
Elsevier
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Awake mental replay of past experiences critical for learning
2. World experts meet in Edinburgh to consider how life experiences impact on our genes
3. 2 servings of salmon a week is healthy for pregnant women and their babies
4. Study finds peoples niceness may reside in their genes
5. Lizard moms may prepare their babies for a stressful world
6. Deterring signals: Tobacco plants advertise their defensive readiness to attacking leafhoppers
7. Vampire jumping spiders identify victims by their antennae
8. New Tool Helps Drug Developers Optimize Their Research and Target Development for Better Results and a Stronger Competitive Edge
9. Parasitic plants steal genes from their hosts
10. Cougars are re-populating their historical range, new study confirms
11. Research: Many programs to help diabetics manage their health do work
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/19/2017)... York , April 19, 2017 ... as its vendor landscape is marked by the presence ... market is however held by five major players - ... Together these companies accounted for nearly 61% of the ... the leading companies in the global military biometrics market ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... 11, 2017 Crossmatch®, a globally-recognized leader ... today announced that it has been awarded a ... Activity (IARPA) to develop next-generation Presentation Attack Detection ... "Innovation has been a driving force within Crossmatch ... allow us to innovate and develop new technologies ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... , April 5, 2017  The Allen Institute ... Allen Cell Explorer: a one-of-a-kind portal and dynamic digital ... 3D imaging data, the first application of deep learning ... human stem cell lines and a growing suite of ... platform for these and future publicly available resources created ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/22/2017)... ... , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is pleased to announce that its Charm Amphenicol ... as a screening test at dairies and farms for raw commingled cow milk. The ... EZ Lite system. These systems are a combination incubator and reader in one. , ...
(Date:6/20/2017)... ... June 20, 2017 , ... Biologist Dawn Maslar MS has found a biomarker ... Men Chase, Women Choose: The Neuroscience of Meeting, Dating, Losing Your Mind, and Finding ... men. ”The logical next step, in my estimation, was to scientifically track the evidence ...
(Date:6/20/2017)... , June 20, 2017  Kibow Biotech Inc., a ... announce the issuance of a new patent covering a ... by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on May ... of the Buzz of Bio award in 2014 in ... to developing non-drug approaches to chronic disease. Renadyl™, the ...
(Date:6/20/2017)... ... ... Do More with OHAUS , With the launch of the new laboratory ... industry, to extending its expertise across the entire laboratory to a range of life ... allowing for its customers to 'Do More' in the lab. , Efficiency and ...
Breaking Biology Technology: