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Nature. 1981 Apr 9;290(5806):508-12.

Supposed lamarckian inheritance of immunological tolerance.


The notion that an adaptation acquired during an organism's lifetime can somehow be imprinted on the genome and so become heritable has been faulted by every critical test to which it has hitherto been exposed, but many naturalists have lost their faith in what seems to them to be the all-encompassing explanatory glibness of neo-darwinism. Although this criticism is unfair it is entirely proper that neo-darwinism should be under constant critical scrutiny. Interest was therefore aroused by the claim of Gorczynski and Steele that tolerance of A strain antigens induced in CBA mice by injecting into them (CBA x A/J)F1 spleen and bone marrow cells could be transmitted down the male line. Such a claim is of particular interest because spermatozoa, unlike oocytes, are produced throughout life and might thus conceivably have participated in the mechanism envisaged by Steele as that responsible for the supposed transfer of genetic information from soma to germ plasm. It was claimed that as many as 60% of the progeny of tolerant fathers mated with normal CBA females were unresponsive or hyporesponsive in an in vitro assay in which their spleen cells were tested for reactivity against A/J strain histocompatibility antigens in the cell-mediated lympholysis assay (CML). We describe here our failure to confirm these findings and our inability to extend them by testing the progeny for their reactivity against skin allografts from the tolerance-conferring strain.

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