Transgenerational epigenetic effects

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2008;9:233-57. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genom.9.081307.164445.


Transgenerational epigenetic effects include all processes that have evolved to achieve the nongenetic determination of phenotype. There has been a long-standing interest in this area from evolutionary biologists, who refer to it as non-Mendelian inheritance. Transgenerational epigenetic effects include both the physiological and behavioral (intellectual) transfer of information across generations. Although in most cases the underlying molecular mechanisms are not understood, modifications of the chromosomes that pass to the next generation through gametes are sometimes involved, which is called transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. There is a trend for those outside the field of molecular biology to assume that most cases of transgenerational epigenetic effects are the result of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, in part because of a misunderstanding of the terms. Unfortunately, this is likely to be far from the truth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Fetus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Male
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Models, Genetic
  • Phenotype
  • Plants / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Vertebrates / genetics