Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • News & Views
  • Published:


Dad’s diet – smRNA methylation signatures in sperm pass on disease risk

Metabolic disease risk is thought to arise at the interface of genetics and the environment. A new study identifies an enzyme that modifies small non-coding RNA and is required for passing on the effects of high-fat diet from father to offspring.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Changes in tRNA-derived small RNAs following a high-fat diet.


  1. Caballero, B. The global epidemic of obesity: an overview. Epidemiol. Rev. 29, 1–5 (2007).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Willyard, C. Heritability: the family roots of obesity. Nature 508, S58–S60 (2014).

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Miska, E. A. & Ferguson-Smith, A. C. Transgenerational inheritance: models and mechanisms of non-DNA sequence-based inheritance. Science 354, 59–63 (2016).

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Chen, Q. et al. Sperm tsRNAs contribute to intergenerational inheritance of an acquired metabolic disorder. Science 351, 397–400 (2016).

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Gapp, K. et al. Implication of sperm RNAs in transgenerational inheritance of the effects of early trauma in mice. Nat. Neurosci. 17, 667–669 (2014).

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Sharma, U. et al. Biogenesis and function of tRNA fragments during sperm maturation and fertilization in mammals. Science 351, 391–396 (2016).

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Zhang, Y. et al. Dnmt2 mediates intergenerational transmission of paternally acquired metabolic disorders through sperm small non-coding RNAs. Nat. Cell Biol. 20, 535–540 (2018).

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Badyaev, A. V. & Uller, T. Parental effects in ecology and evolution: mechanisms, processes and implications. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 364, 1169–1177 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Mashoodh, R., Habrylo, I. B., Gudsnuk, K. M., Pelle, G. & Champagne, F. A. Maternal modulation of paternal effects on offspring development. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 285, 20180118 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Donkin, I. et al. Obesity and bariatric surgery drive epigenetic variation of spermatozoa in humans. Cell Metab. 23, 369–378 (2016).

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anne C. Ferguson-Smith.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mashoodh, R., Ferguson-Smith, A.C. Dad’s diet – smRNA methylation signatures in sperm pass on disease risk. Nat Rev Endocrinol 14, 446–447 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing