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Worm. 2012 Jan 1;1(1):77-81. doi: 10.4161/worm.19157.

Epigenetic memory of longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Department of Genetics; Stanford University; Stanford, CA USA.


A recent study by Greer et al. in the nematode C. elegans has shown transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of longevity in the descendants of worms deficient for subunits of a complex responsible for histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3). In this commentary, we discuss the implications of this epigenetic memory of longevity and the potential mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. The transgenerational inheritance of longevity could result from heritable depletion of H3K4me3 at particular aging-regulating gene loci that would only be progressively replenished. The epigenetic memory of longevity could also be explained by the transgenerational transmission of other molecules, for example other proteins or non-coding RNAs. The discovery of an epigenetic memory of longevity in worms raises the intriguing possibility that environmental cues modulating longevity in ancestors might affect subsequent generations in a non-Mendelian manner. Another remaining intriguing question is whether transgenerational inheritance of longevity also exists in other species, including mammals.


H3K4me3; aging; epigenetics; longevity; transgenerational inheritance

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