Understanding transgenerational epigenetic inheritance via the gametes in mammals

Nat Rev Genet. 2012 Jan 31;13(3):153-62. doi: 10.1038/nrg3188.


It is known that information that is not contained in the DNA sequence - epigenetic information - can be inherited from the parent to the offspring. However, many questions remain unanswered regarding the extent and mechanisms of such inheritance. In this Review, we consider the evidence for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance via the gametes, including cases of environmentally induced epigenetic changes. The molecular basis of this inheritance remains unclear, but recent evidence points towards diffusible factors, in particular RNA, rather than DNA methylation or chromatin. Interestingly, many cases of epigenetic inheritance seem to involve repeat sequences.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Genomic Imprinting*
  • Germ Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics*
  • Mammals / genetics*