Epigenetics Intelligent Design

Researchers: Parents’ memory of avoiding danger can be inherited

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fruit fly/Sanjay Acharya (CC BY-SA 4.0)

In fruit flies, anyway. But it might help us understand addiction over generations of families. From ScienceDaily:

Results of a new Dartmouth study published this week in the journal eLife — which examined how environmental stressors put on fruit flies (Drosophilia melanogaster) can influence the phenotypes of their offspring — are adding some intriguing findings to the mix.

“While neuronally encoded behavior isn’t thought to be inherited across generations, we wanted to test the possibility that environmentally triggered modifications could allow ‘memory’ of parental experiences to be inherited,” explains Julianna “Lita” Bozler, a PhD candidate in the Bosco Lab at the Geisel School of Medicine, who served as lead author on the study.

When exposed to parasitoid wasps — which deposit their eggs into and kill the larvae of fruit flies — Drosophila melanogaster females are known to shift their preference to food containing ethanol as an egg laying substrate, which protects their larvae from wasp infection.

For the study, the fruit flies were cohabitated with female wasps for four days before their eggs were collected. The embryos were separated into two cohorts — a wasp-exposed and unexposed (control) group — and developed to maturity without any contact with adult flies or wasps. One group was used to propagate the next generation and the other was analyzed for ethanol preference.

“We found that the original wasp-exposed flies laid about 94 percent of their eggs on ethanol food, and that this behavior persisted in their offspring, even though they’d never had direct interaction with wasps,” says Bozler.

The ethanol preference was less potent in the first-generation offspring, with 73 percent of their eggs laid on ethanol food. “But remarkably, this inherited ethanol preference persisted for five generations, gradually reverting back to a pre-wasp exposed level,” she says. “This tells us that inheritance of ethanol preference is not a permanent germline change, but rather a reversible trait.” Paper. (open access) – Julianna Bozler, Balint Z Kacsoh, Giovanni Bosco. Transgenerational inheritance of ethanol preference is caused by maternal NPF repression. eLife, 2019; 8 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.45391 More.

The memory only lasted about five generations but the fact that it happens at all is significant.

Note especially: “Of particular interest, are the conserved signaling functions of NPF and its mammalian counterpart NPY in humans,” he says. “We hope that our findings may lead to greater insights into the role that parental experiences play across generations in diseases such as drug and alcohol disorders.” It might help in understanding why many families seem to replay “addiction tapes” into the third and fourth generation.

See also: See also: Epigenetics: Fertilized egg deletes sperm’s epigenetic memory

and

Lamarck was right: How epigenetic memory is passed through generations

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