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Hum Mol Genet. 2009 Oct 15;18(R2):R202-10. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddp366.

Transgenerational genetic effects on phenotypic variation and disease risk.

Author information

  • Department of Genetics, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH, USA. jhn4@case.edu

Abstract

Traditionally, we understand that individual phenotypes result primarily from inherited genetic variants together with environmental exposures. However, many studies showed that a remarkable variety of factors including environmental agents, parental behaviors, maternal physiology, xenobiotics, nutritional supplements and others lead to epigenetic changes that can be transmitted to subsequent generations without continued exposure. Recent discoveries show transgenerational epistasis and transgenerational genetic effects where genetic factors in one generation affect phenotypes in subsequent generation without inheritance of the genetic variant in the parents. Together these discoveries implicate a key signaling pathway, chromatin remodeling, methylation, RNA editing and microRNA biology. This exceptional mode of inheritance complicates the search for disease genes and represents perhaps an adaptation to transmit useful gene expression profiles from one generation to the next. In this review, I present evidence for these transgenerational genetic effects, identify their common features, propose a heuristic model to guide the search for mechanisms, discuss the implications, and pose questions whose answers will begin to reveal the underlying mechanisms.

PMID:
19808797
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2758712
Free PMC Article

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