The paper discusses epigenetics. Of course it’s true that we are more than the sum of our genes but you know things are changing when researchers dare say so. From ScienceDaily:
Epigenetics between the generations
He and his team at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg, Germany used fruit flies to explore how epigenetic modifications are transmitted from the mother to the embryo. The team focused on a particular modification called H3K27me3 that can also be found in humans. It alters the so-called chromatin, the packaging of the DNA in the cell nucleus, and is mainly associated with repressing gene expression.
The Max Planck researchers found that H3K27me3 modifications labeling chromatin DNA in the mother’s egg cells were still present in the embryo after fertilization, even though other epigenetic marks are erased. “This indicates that the mother passes on her epigenetic marks to her offspring. But we were also interested, if those marks are doing something important in the embryo,” explains Fides Zenk, first author of the study.
Inherited epigenetic marks are important for embryogenesis
Therefore the researchers used a variety of genetic tools in fruit flies to remove the enzyme that places H3K27me3 marks and discovered that embryos lacking H3K27me3 during early development could not develop to the end of embryogenesis. “It turned out that, in reproduction, epigenetic information is not only inherited from one generation to another but also important for the development of the embryo itself,” says Nicola Iovino.
When they had a closer look into the embryos, the team found that several important developmental genes that are normally switched off during early embryogenesis were turned on in embryos without H3K27me3. “We assumed that activating those genes too soon during development disrupted embryogenesis and eventually caused the death of the embryo. It seems, virtually, that inherited epigenetic information is needed to process and correctly transcribe the genetic code of the embryo,” explains Fides Zenk. Paper. (public access) – Zenk F, Loeser E, Schiavo R, Kilpert F, Bogdanovic O, Iovino N. Germ line-inherited H3K27me3 restricts enhancer function during maternal-to-zygotic transition. Science, Vol. 357, Issue 6347, pp. 212-216; July 14th, 2017 DOI: More.
Another installment of the beginning of the end for hardline gene-centric thinking.
See also: Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!