Effects on offspring of epigenetic inheritance via sperm

Sperm-inherited H3K27me3 impacts offspring transcription and development in C. elegans

In experiments with worms, researchers showed that epigenetic marks on sperm chromosomes affect gene expression and development in offspring.

2019 Study Abstract

Paternal epigenetic inheritance is gaining attention for its growing medical relevance. However, the form in which paternal epigenetic information is transmitted to offspring and how it influences offspring development remain poorly understood.

Here we show that in C. elegans, sperm-inherited chromatin states transmitted to the primordial germ cells in offspring influence germline transcription and development. We show that sperm chromosomes inherited lacking the repressive histone modification H3K27me3 are maintained in that state by H3K36me3 antagonism. Inheritance of H3K27me3-lacking sperm chromosomes results in derepression in the germline of somatic genes, especially neuronal genes, predominantly from sperm-inherited alleles.

This results in germ cells primed for losing their germ cell identity and adopting a neuronal fate. These data demonstrate that histone modifications are one mechanism through which epigenetic information from a father can shape offspring gene expression and development.

Reference. Press release.

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