The Ancestral Environment Shapes Antiviral CD8 + T cell Responses across Generations

iScience. 2019 Oct 25;20:168-183. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2019.09.014. Epub 2019 Sep 14.


Recent studies have linked health fates of children to environmental exposures of their great grandparents. However, few studies have considered whether ancestral exposures influence immune function across generations. Here, we report transgenerational inheritance of altered T cell responses resulting from maternal (F0) exposure to the aryl hydrocarbon receptor ligand 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Since F0 exposure to TCDD has been linked to transgenerational transmission of reproductive problems, we asked whether maternal TCDD exposure also caused transgenerational changes in immune function. F0 exposure caused transgenerational effects on the CD8+ T cell response to influenza virus infection in females but not in males. Outcrosses showed changes were passed through both parental lineages. These data demonstrate that F0 exposure to an aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) agonist causes durable changes to immune responses that can affect subsequent generations. This has broad implications for understanding how the environment of prior generations shapes susceptibility to pathogens and antiviral immunity in later generations.

Keywords: Developmental System Toxicology; Environmental Health; Environmental Toxicology; Immunology.