Molecular insights into transgenerational non-genetic inheritance of acquired behaviours

Nat Rev Genet. 2015 Nov;16(11):641-52. doi: 10.1038/nrg3964. Epub 2015 Sep 29.


Behavioural traits in mammals are influenced by environmental factors, which can interact with the genome and modulate its activity by complex molecular interplay. Environmental experiences can modify social, emotional and cognitive behaviours during an individual's lifetime, and result in acquired behavioural traits that can be transmitted to subsequent generations. This Review discusses the concept of, and experimental support for, non-genetic transgenerational inheritance of acquired traits involving the germ line in mammals. Possible mechanisms of induction and maintenance during development and adulthood are considered along with an interpretation of recent findings showing the involvement of epigenetic modifications and non-coding RNAs in male germ cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Gene-Environment Interaction*
  • Genetics, Behavioral*
  • Germ Cells / growth & development
  • Germ Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mammals / physiology
  • Models, Genetic