Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: adaptation through the germline epigenome?

Lexie Prokopuk, Patrick S Western, Jessica M Stringer
Epigenomics 2015, 7 (5): 829-46
Epigenetic modifications direct the way DNA is packaged into the nucleus, making genes more or less accessible to transcriptional machinery and influencing genomic stability. Environmental factors have the potential to alter the epigenome, allowing genes that are silenced to be activated and vice versa. This ultimately influences disease susceptibility and health in an individual. Furthermore, altered chromatin states can be transmitted to subsequent generations, thus epigenetic modifications may provide evolutionary mechanisms that impact on adaptation to changed environments. However, the mechanisms involved in establishing and maintaining these epigenetic modifications during development remain unclear. This review discusses current evidence for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, confounding issues associated with its study, and the biological relevance of altered epigenetic states for subsequent generations.

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