MAR 29, 2016 06:48 AM PDT

Epigenetic Inheritance of Life Experiences

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
A mother can pass down red hair and blue eyes to her child, why not the impact of a stressful life full of hardships?
 

From Tel Aviv University, scientists are finding genetic evidence of a capability of worms to pass down information from life experiences through epigenetics. Study leader Oded Rechavi, PhD, and his team believe that stress felt by trauma survivors can be inherited by their offspring with an actively regulated process involving small RNA molecules. Essentially, certain small RNAs are produced based on a body-wide cellular need, and these RNAs have the potential to persist throughout generations and regulate cellular function.
 
"We previously showed that worms inherited small RNAs following the starvation and viral infections of their parents. These small RNAs helped prepare their offspring for similar hardships," Rechavi explained.
 
In their study of C. elegans worms, Rechavi and his team identified a process that keeps RNA activity alive throughout multiple generations. Certain enzymes called RdRPs are utilized to recreate RNAs so their activity does not diminish over time.
 
Rechavi believes previous assumptions that inheritance fades away, built around studies where RNA activity was reduced to zero after a few generations, are simply oversights. Instead, he believes it is simply a regulatory process that does turn RNA activity on and off but is still actively monitored throughout generations.
 
Rechavi and his team were able to develop this theory by injecting C. elegans worms with green fluorescent protein (GFP)-targeting small RNAs. The researchers knew the small RNAs were active when GFP’s characteristic glow was not visible.
 
This study, published recently in the journal Cell, described the discovery of the specific genes communicating with the RNAs to control the on or off state of the epigenetic code. The genes are called Modified Transgenerational Epigenetic Kinetics (MOTEK) genes. The researchers discovered how to manipulate the feedback between MOTEK genes and the RNAs to manipulate when RNA inheritance occurs and when it does not.
 
In the near future, the researchers from Tel Aviv University will look for MOTEK genes in humans.
 
 
Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University
 
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 20, 2018
Immunology
NOV 20, 2018
Mutations Mutations Which Ones Do We Want?
A team at UCSF makes use of new SLICE tool to generate mutations that reveal specific genetic functions....
NOV 24, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 24, 2018
How Fish can Teach us About Mending a Broken Heart
Our world hosts some incredible organisms, some of which might help people create treatments for disease....
DEC 19, 2018
Immunology
DEC 19, 2018
UTI Infection Becoming a Common Reoccurrence?
Researchers have shed new light on the connection between recurring urinary tract infections and the bacterial strain involved...
DEC 21, 2018
Microbiology
DEC 21, 2018
How the Gut Microbiome Controls the Intestinal Immune System
The gut microbiome has many important functions, including helping us digest food. But it has to protect itself from the immune system....
DEC 21, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 21, 2018
Red Wolf DNA Discovered in Unusual Canines
Red wolves were thought to be extinct in the wild and were listed as such in 1980. Researchers have now found red wolf DNA in Texas canines...
JAN 08, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 08, 2019
A Genetic Recipe for Monogamy
Is it natural to remain committed to a mate for life? Researchers at the University of Texas Austin have used genetics to learn more about monogamy....
Loading Comments...