A growing body of evidence suggests that environmental stresses can cause changes in gene expression that are transmitted from parents to their offspring, making “epigenetics” a hot topic. Epigenetic modifications do not affect the DNA sequence of genes, but change how the DNA is packaged and how genes are expressed. Now, a study by scientists at UC Santa Cruz shows how epigenetic memory can be passed across generations and from cell to cell during development. /blockquote>
Strome noted that the findings in this study of transmission of histone methylation in C. elegans have important implications in other organisms, even though different organisms use the repressive marker that was studied to regulate different genes during different aspects of development. All animals use the same enzyme to create the same methylation mark as a signal for gene repression, and her colleagues who study epigenetics in mice and humans are excited about the new findings, Strome said.
“Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance is not a solved field–it’s very much in flux,” she said. “There are dozens of potential epigenetic markers. In studies that document parent-to-child epigenetic inheritance, it’s not clear what’s being passed on, and understanding it molecularly is very complicated. We have a specific example of epigenetic memory that is passed on, and we can see it in the microscope. It’s one piece of the puzzle.”
Here’s the abstract:
For proper development, cells must retain patterns of gene expression and repression through cell division. Repression via methylation of histone H3 on Lys27 (H3K27me) by Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) is conserved, but its transmission is not well understood. Our studies suggest that PRC2 represses the X chromosomes in Caenorhabditis elegans germ cells, and this repression is transmitted to embryos by both sperm and oocytes. By generating embryos containing some chromosomes with and some without H3K27me, we show that, without PRC2, H3K27me is transmitted to daughter chromatids through several rounds of cell division. In embryos with PRC2, a mosaic H3K27me pattern persists through embryogenesis. These results demonstrate that H3K27me and PRC2 each contribute to epigenetically transmitting the memory of repression across generations and during development. – L. J. Gaydos, W. Wang, S. Strome. H3K27me and PRC2 transmit a memory of repression across generations and during development. Science, 2014; 345 (6203): 1515 DOI: 10.1126/science.1255023 (paywall)
Note: From a Darwinsite:
Lamarck’s scientific theories were largely ignored or attacked during his lifetime; Lamarck never won the acceptance and esteem of his colleagues Buffon and Cuvier, and he died in poverty and obscurity. Today, the name of Lamarck is associated merely with a discredited theory of heredity, the “inheritance of acquired traits.” However, Charles Darwin, Lyell, Haeckel, and other early evolutionists acknowledged him as a great zoologist and as a forerunner of evolution.
So why did Darwin’s followers have to denigrate Lamarck. Wonder what they will say now as he turns out to be right?
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