Evidence suggests that what happens in a generation ̵
But how these changes are transmitted through generations has not been understood, in part, because scientists have not had a simple way of studying the phenomenon. A new study by researchers at the University of Maryland provides a potential tool to uncover the mystery of how experiences can cause hereditary changes in an animal’s biology. By mating nematode worms, they produced permanent epigenetic changes that lasted for more than 300 generations. The research was published on July 9, 2021 in the journal Nature communication.
“There is great interest in hereditary epigenetics,” said Antony Jose, associate professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at UMD and senior author of the study. “But it’s hard to get clear answers. For example, if I’m on a diet today, how does it affect my children and grandchildren and so on? Nobody knows, because so many different variables are involved. But we’ve found this very simple method through pairing to turn off a single gene for several generations. And it gives us a huge opportunity to study how these stable epigenetic changes occur. “
In the new study, Jose and his team found during breeding nematode worms that some matings led to epigenetic changes in offspring that continued to be passed on for as many generations as the researchers continued to breed them. This discovery will allow researchers to investigate how epigenetic changes are passed on to future generations and what traits make genes susceptible to permanent epigenetic changes.
Jose and his team began this work in 2013 while working on nematode worms, Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a species often used as a model for understanding animal biology. The researchers noted that worms bred to carry a gene they called T, which produce fluorescent proteins, sometimes glowed and sometimes not. This was confusing because lighter and non-lighter had almost identical DNA.
“It all started when we stumbled upon a rare gene that underwent permanent change for hundreds of generations just by mating. We could easily have missed it,” said Sindhuja Devanapally (Ph.D. ’18, Biological Sciences), a co- lead author. of the study, who is now a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University.
To better understand the phenomenon, the researchers conducted breeding experiments in which only the mother or father carried the fluorescent gene. The team expected that no matter which parent carried the gene, the offspring would glow. Instead, they found that when the mother carried the fluorescent gene, the offspring always glowed, meaning the gene was always on. However, when the father carried the gene, offspring usually glowed faintly or not at all.
“We found that there are these RNA-based signals that control gene expression,” Jose said. “Some of these signals silence the gene, and some of them are protective signals that prevent silence. These signals kill it when the offspring develop. When the gene comes from the mother, the protection signal always wins, but when the gene comes from the father, silent signal wins almost always. “
When the attenuation signal wins, the gene is boarded for good or for at least 300 generations, which is how long Jose and his colleagues followed their worm in the laboratory. Previous examples of epigenetic changes were more complex, or lasted no more than a few generations. Researchers do not yet know why the attenuation signal only gains some of the time, but this new discovery puts them in a much better position to explore the details of epigenetic heritage than ever before.
“While we have found a set of genes that can be silent almost permanently, most other genes are not affected in the same way,” said the study’s co-author Pravrutha Raman (Ph.D. ’19, Biological Sciences), who is now a postdoctoral fellow at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “After silence, they jump back and find expression in future generations.”
With their new findings, researchers now believe that some genes may be more vulnerable to permanent epigenetic change, while other genes recover within a few generations. Although worm studies are not the same as in humans, research provides a window into biological processes that are likely to be shared, at least in part, by all animals.
“The two major benefits we now have from this work are that this long-lasting epigenetic change is easy to induce through mating and that it occurs at the level of a single gene,” Jose said. “Now we can manipulate this gene and control everything about it, allowing us to determine what traits make a gene susceptible or resistant to hereditary epigenetic change.”
Jose and his colleagues expect that future studies may one day help researchers identify human genes that are vulnerable to long-term epigenetic changes.
The research paper, “Mating can start stable RNA attenuation that overcomes epigenetic recovery,” Sindhuja Devanapally, Pravrutha Raman, Mary Chey, Samual Allgood, Farida Ettefa, Maïgane Diop, Yixin Lin, Yongyi E Cho and Antony M Jose, was published on 9 July 2021 in the journal Nature communication.
Toxin-adapted fish transmit epigenetic mutations to freshwater offspring
“Pairing can initiate stable RNA attenuation that overcomes epigenetic recovery,” Nature communication (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-24053-4
Provided by the University of Maryland
Citation: Match means something: The right combination of parents can deactivate a gene indefinitely (2021, July 9) Retrieved July 9, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-combination-parents-gene- indefinitely.html
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