Non-genomic Transgenerational Inheritance of Disease Risk

Bioessays. 2007 Feb;29(2):145-54. doi: 10.1002/bies.20522.

Abstract

That there is a heritable or familial component of susceptibility to chronic non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease is well established, but there is increasing evidence that some elements of such heritability are transmitted non-genomically and that the processes whereby environmental influences act during early development to shape disease risk in later life can have effects beyond a single generation. Such heritability may operate through epigenetic mechanisms involving regulation of either imprinted or non-imprinted genes but also through broader mechanisms related to parental physiology or behaviour. We review evidence and potential mechanisms for non-genomic transgenerational inheritance of 'lifestyle' disease and propose that the 'developmental origins of disease' phenomenon is a maladaptive consequence of an ancestral mechanism of developmental plasticity that may have had adaptive value in the evolution of generalist species such as Homo sapiens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease / etiology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Genomic Imprinting
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / genetics
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable
  • Risk