A frog study provides the strongest evidence yet that a father’s lifestyle may affect the next generation, via chemical tags that change gene activity…
For a long time it has been assumed that the only role of sperm at fertilization is to introduce the male genome into the egg. Recently, ideas have emerged that the epigenetic state of the sperm nucleus could influence transcription in the embryo. However conflicting reports have challenged the existence of epigenetic marking of sperm genes, and there are no functional tests supporting the role of sperm epigenetic marking on embryonic gene expression. Here we show that sperm is epigenetically programmed to regulate embryonic gene expression.
First evidence that sperm epigenetics affect the next generation, newscientist, 13 April 2016.
By comparing the development of sperm- and spermatid-derived frog embryos we show that the programming of sperm for successful development relates to its ability to regulate transcription of a set of developmentally important genes. During spermatid maturation into sperm, these genes lose H3K4me2/3 and retain H3K27me3 marks. Experimental removal of these epigenetic marks, at fertilization, deregulates gene expression in the resulting embryos in a paternal chromatin dependent manner. This demonstrates that epigenetic instructions delivered by the sperm at fertilization are required for correct regulation of gene expression in the future embryos.
The epigenetic mechanisms of developmental programming revealed here are likely to relate to the mechanisms involved in transgenerational transmission of acquired traits. Understanding how parental experience can influence development of the progeny has broad potential for improving human health