Background: Environmentally induced epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of adult onset disease involves a variety of phenotypic changes, suggesting a general alteration in genome activity.
Results: Investigation of different tissue transcriptomes in male and female F3 generation vinclozolin versus control lineage rats demonstrated all tissues examined had transgenerational transcriptomes. The microarrays from 11 different tissues were compared with a gene bionetwork analysis. Although each tissue transgenerational transcriptome was unique, common cellular pathways and processes were identified between the tissues. A cluster analysis identified gene modules with coordinated gene expression and each had unique gene networks regulating tissue-specific gene expression and function. A large number of statistically significant over-represented clusters of genes were identified in the genome for both males and females. These gene clusters ranged from 2-5 megabases in size, and a number of them corresponded to the epimutations previously identified in sperm that transmit the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease phenotypes.
Conclusions: Combined observations demonstrate that all tissues derived from the epigenetically altered germ line develop transgenerational transcriptomes unique to the tissue, but common epigenetic control regions in the genome may coordinately regulate these tissue-specific transcriptomes. This systems biology approach provides insight into the molecular mechanisms involved in the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of a variety of adult onset disease phenotypes.