Evidence for transgenerational transmission of epigenetic tumor susceptibility in Drosophila

PLoS Genet. 2007 Sep;3(9):1598-606. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.0030151. Epub 2007 Jul 20.


Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance results from incomplete erasure of parental epigenetic marks during epigenetic reprogramming at fertilization. The significance of this phenomenon, and the mechanism by which it occurs, remains obscure. Here, we show that genetic mutations in Drosophila may cause epigenetic alterations that, when inherited, influence tumor susceptibility of the offspring. We found that many of the mutations that affected tumorigenesis induced by a hyperactive JAK kinase, Hop(Tum-l), also modified the tumor phenotype epigenetically, such that the modification persisted even in the offspring that did not inherit the modifier mutation. We analyzed mutations of the transcription repressor Krüppel (Kr), which is one of the hop(Tum-l) enhancers known to affect ftz transcription. We demonstrate that the Kr mutation causes increased DNA methylation in the ftz promoter region, and that the aberrant ftz transcription and promoter methylation are both transgenerationally heritable if Hop(Tum-l) is present in the oocyte. These results suggest that genetic mutations may alter epigenetic markings in the form of DNA methylation, which are normally erased early in the next generation, and that JAK overactivation disrupts epigenetic reprogramming and allows inheritance of epimutations that influence tumorigenesis in future generations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA Primers
  • Drosophila
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Janus Kinases / metabolism
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • DNA Primers
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Kr protein, Drosophila
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • Janus Kinases