RNA-mediated transgenerational inheritance in ciliates and plants

Chromosoma. 2018 Mar;127(1):19-27. doi: 10.1007/s00412-017-0655-4. Epub 2017 Dec 11.


In the age of next-generation sequencing (NGS) and with the availability of whole sequenced genomes and epigenomes, some attention has shifted from purely sequence-based studies to those of heritable epigenetic modifications. Transgenerational inheritance can be defined as heritable changes to the state of DNA that may be passed on to subsequent generations without alterations to the underlying DNA sequence. Although this phenomenon has been extensively studied in many systems, studies of transgenerational inheritance in mammals and other higher-level eukaryotes may be complicated by the fact that many epigenetic marks are reprogrammed during sexual reproduction. This, by definition, may obscure our interpretation of what is in fact truly transgenerational. Therefore, in this mini review, we discuss what is currently known in the field about transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in ciliates and plants, with a particular emphasis on RNA-mediated processes and changes in chromatin states.

Keywords: Ciliates; Epigenetics; Non-Mendelian inheritance; Plants; Small RNA; Transgenerational inheritance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Inheritance Patterns*
  • Plants / genetics*
  • RNA, Plant*


  • RNA, Plant