Transgenerational inheritance of acquired epigenetic signatures at CpG islands in mice

Cell. 2023 Feb 16;186(4):715-731.e19. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.12.047. Epub 2023 Feb 7.


Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in mammals remains a debated subject. Here, we demonstrate that DNA methylation of promoter-associated CpG islands (CGIs) can be transmitted from parents to their offspring in mice. We generated DNA methylation-edited mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs), in which CGIs of two metabolism-related genes, the Ankyrin repeat domain 26 and the low-density lipoprotein receptor, were specifically methylated and silenced. DNA methylation-edited mice generated by microinjection of the methylated ESCs exhibited abnormal metabolic phenotypes. Acquired methylation of the targeted CGI and the phenotypic traits were maintained and transmitted across multiple generations. The heritable CGI methylation was subjected to reprogramming in parental PGCs and subsequently reestablished in the next generation at post-implantation stages. These observations provide a concrete step toward demonstrating transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in mammals, which may have implications in our understanding of evolutionary biology as well as the etiology, diagnosis, and prevention of non-genetically inherited human diseases.

Keywords: CpG island; DNA methylation; DNA methylation-edited mice; DNA methylation-edited mouse ES cells; biological evolution; epigenome; epimutation; obesity; transgenerational epigenetic inheritance; transmission of metabolic phenotypes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mice