Intergenerational and transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in animals


Animals transmit not only DNA but also other molecules, such as RNA, proteins and metabolites, to their progeny via gametes. It is currently unclear to what extent these molecules convey information between generations and whether this information changes according to their physiological state and environment. Here, we review recent work on the molecular mechanisms by which ‘epigenetic’ information is transmitted between generations over different timescales, and the importance of this information for development and physiology.

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Fig. 1: Mechanisms of transfer of information about ancestral environment or physiology over generations.
Fig. 2: Small RNA pathways can direct histone methylation and DNA methylation to repress specific loci.


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This work was supported by a European Research Council (ERC) consolidator grant (616434), the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (BFU2017-89488-P and SEV-2012-0208), the AXA Research Fund, the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, Agencia de Gestio d’Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca (AGAUR; SGR-831), the EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Program and the CERCA Program/Generalitat de Catalunya.

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M.F.P. and B.L. wrote the manuscript.

Correspondence to Ben Lehner.

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Perez, M.F., Lehner, B. Intergenerational and transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in animals. Nat Cell Biol 21, 143–151 (2019).

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