The researchers report that they are homing in on how non-DNA information travels in sperm:
It has long been understood that a parent’s DNA is the principal determinant of health and disease in offspring. Yet inheritance via DNA is only part of the story; a father’s lifestyle such as diet, being overweight and stress levels have been linked to health consequences for his offspring. This occurs through the epigenome—heritable biochemical marks associated with the DNA and proteins that bind it. But how the information is transmitted at fertilization along with the exact mechanisms and molecules in sperm that are involved in this process has been unclear until now.
A new study from McGill, published recently in Developmental Cell, has made a significant advance in the field by identifying how environmental information is transmitted by non-DNA molecules in the sperm. It is a discovery that advances scientific understanding of the heredity of paternal life experiences and potentially opens new avenues for studying disease transmission and prevention.
“The big breakthrough with this study is that it has identified a non-DNA based means by which sperm remember a father’s environment (diet) and transmit that information to the embryo,” says Sarah Kimmins, Ph.D., the senior author on the study and the Canada Research Chair in Epigenetics, Reproduction and Development. The paper builds on 15 years of research from her group. “It is remarkable, as it presents a major shift from what is known about heritability and disease from being solely DNA-based, to one that now includes sperm proteins. This study opens the door to the possibility that the key to understanding and preventing certain diseases could involve proteins in sperm.”McGill University, “Discovery identifies non-DNA mechanism involved in transmitting paternal experience to offspring” at Phys.org
The paper is closed access.
See also: Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!