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Genome Res. 2010 Dec;20(12):1623-8. doi: 10.1101/gr.106138.110. Epub 2010 Nov 1.

Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: more questions than answers.

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  • 1Epigenetics Laboratory, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Herston, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.


Epigenetic modifications are widely accepted as playing a critical role in the regulation of gene expression and thereby contributing to the determination of the phenotype of multicellular organisms. In general, these marks are cleared and re-established each generation, but there have been reports in a number of model organisms that at some loci in the genome this clearing is incomplete. This phenomenon is referred to as transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. Moreover, recent evidence shows that the environment can stably influence the establishment of the epigenome. Together, these findings suggest that an environmental event in one generation could affect the phenotype in subsequent generations, and these somewhat Lamarckian ideas are stimulating interest from a broad spectrum of biologists, from ecologists to health workers.

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