Mechanisms of transgenerational inheritance of addictive-like behaviors

Neuroscience. 2014 Apr 4;264:198-206. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.07.064. Epub 2013 Aug 3.


Genetic factors are implicated in the heritability of drug abuse. However, even with advances in current technology no specific genes have been identified that are critical for the transmission of drug-induced phenotypes to subsequent generations. It is now evident that epigenetic factors contribute to disease heritability and represent a link between genes and the environment. Recently, epigenetic mechanisms have been shown to underlie drug-induced structural, synaptic, and behavioral plasticity by coordinating the expression of gene networks within the brain. Therefore, the epigenome provides a direct mechanism for drugs of abuse to influence the genetic events involved in the development of addiction as well as its heritability to subsequent generations. In this review we discuss the mechanisms underlying intergenerational epigenetic transmission, highlight studies that demonstrate this phenomenon with particular attention to the field of addiction, and identify gaps for future studies.

Keywords: BDNF; cocaine; epigenetics; prefrontal cortex; transgenerational inheritance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics*
  • Male
  • Rats