The epigenetic influence of the father

May 28, 2010
The epigenetic influence of the father
Collage of human spermatozoa and a histogram displaying the distribution of histones along the GATA6 gene in human sperm.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) shed light on the highly debated question whether fathers transmit epigenetic information to their offspring. They have shown that the relatively few histones that bind and fold up DNA in mature human sperm carry specific covalent modifications and occupy specific sites in the genome.

The modified histones cluster around regulatory sequences of involved in early , cellular homeostasis and spermatogenesis. This pattern is conserved from mouse to man, indicating that their distribution may indeed serve a specific function for regulating embryonic development and transmitting epigenetic information.

Not every inherited trait can be explained by the inheritance of genes. Tags on the , particularly those which are found in the form of post-translational modifications of histones, are thought to contribute to inheritance as well. These marks consist specifically of small methyl or acetyl groups covalently bound to highly conserved within histones. While the influence of maternal epigenetic marks on early embryonic development has been extensively studied, it has been hotly debated whether or not the father makes an epigenetic contribution as well. This is because the vast majority of histones are replaced by other proteins allowing denser packaging of the during sperm maturation.

Antoine Peters and his team of epigenetic researchers at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research show that there may indeed be a role for chromatin marks inherited from sperm in early mammalian development. In a recent report in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology they report that modified histones in mature human sperm predominantly bind to regulatory sequences of genes that are important for early embryonic development, cellular homeostasis and spermatogenesis. They found similar marks at the same classes of genes in sperm of mice; this conservation of epigenetic markings suggests that the positioning of paternal histone modifications may well be essential for controlling early embryonic development.

"A few other recent publications have examined the histones found in human , but we are the first to show that positioning and modifications are conserved between species," comments Antoine Peters. "How modified histones are retained at these loci and whether they are part of an intrinsic transgenerational developmental program or also respond to environmental cues experienced by the father (for example, extreme starvation, stress or environmental toxins), is still unclear. Our results, however, definitely open new avenues of research into this important phenomenon."

Explore further: Unsteady on your feet? Little touches could make all the difference

More information: Nature Structural & Molecular Biology paper: www.nature.com/nsmb/journal/va… /full/nsmb.1821.html

Provided by Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research

4.3 /5 (12 votes)

Related Stories

Scientists clarify a mechanism of epigenetic inheritance

Apr 22, 2008

Although letters representing the three billion pairs of molecules that form the “rungs” of the helical DNA “ladder” are routinely called the human “genetic code,” the DNA they comprise transmits traits across ...

Recommended for you

Neutralising antibodies for safer organ transplants

17 hours ago

Serious complications can arise following kidney transplants. If dialysis is required within the first seven days, then the transplanted organ is said to have a Delayed Graft Function (DGF), and essentially ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VEERUNCLE
1 / 5 (1) May 29, 2010
Greetings...

May be spermatozoa, male and female gametogenesis, cellular homeostasis unto the genetic-soup of nucleosomes and histones or even further in ontological depths of any and all modifications functioning in paternal transmission of epigenetic information are the stuff of arcane value to be discernibly deciphered by the esoteric studies of being Science and Scriptures in hand & gloves to give a new dimension postulated by few polymaths as Para'physics ( a new physics at its nascency )

Einstein said "Science without Religion is Blind ; Religion without Science is Lame" ...but their unison has transmutated present science from Genetics to Epigenetics. Now we are at the threshold of Para'physics to understand the world beyond in domain of Genietics that may propagate the human weirdness to know encryption that designs & programme the Physics of Consciousness

CHARANJEET SINGH LAMBA
~astral scientist~
Exponent : Cosmic Efficacy & Tithonicity