A new study carried out by researchers from Canada’s McGill University has discovered a mechanism through which sperm remember aspects such as diet, lifestyle or the impact of stress on parents and later transfer that data to the embryo, using molecules that do not belong to DNA.
According to a Press release, the induced changes in the diet of mice caused alterations in the gene expression of the embryos and congenital defects in the spine and skull, in the framework of experiments carried out during the investigation. Knowing how beyond DNA is inherited will help prevent diseases that will lead to healthier children and adults.
Although it is known that DNA is the main factor in genetic transmission that determines the predisposition to contract certain diseases in children, in reality this information is only part of heredity. At the same time, other issues such as lifestyle, diet or overweight conditions in the parents can also directly influence the offspring.
These influences are seen in the epigenome, that is, the set of chemical reactions and other processes that modify the activity of DNA but without altering its sequence. This means that, although epigenetic marks are not genes per se nor are they included in the basic information of DNA, they still influence heredity and gene expression, changing the way in which genes manifest and act on genes. vital processes.
From sperm to embryo
The main advance of the new Canadian study is to have identified how environmental information is transmitted by non-DNA molecules in sperm. Consequently, advances are made in the scientific understanding of the inheritance of paternal life experiences and in the way in which it influences the children.
In addition to opening new avenues to study the transmission and prevention of diseases, scientists have managed to determine precisely the way in which external data is transmitted to DNA in fertilization, along with the mechanisms and molecules involved in this process. The research was recently published in the journal Developmental Cell.
To confirm your hypotheses about the way in which sperm remembering the environment and the father’s experiences and transmitting that information to the embryo, the researchers conducted experiments on rodents. They fed male mice a nutritionally deficient diet and then tracked the effects on particular groups of molecules.
A hopeful discovery
The results marked the presence of alterations in gene expression in the embryos, at the same time motivating congenital defects in specific areas of the organism, such as the spinal column and also the skull. The scientists highlighted that the modifications in the sperm were transmitted directly during fertilization, remaining in the embryos that began to develop.
As Ariane Lismer, lead author of the study, explains, “It was exciting for us to see the results, because no one had previously been able to track how these heritable environmental signatures are transmitted from sperm to embryo,” she said.
Perhaps the most attractive and hopeful aspect of this finding is that specialists believe that these negative variations that are coupled to DNA and make up inheritance can be modified. In future studies they will seek to advance in this regard, something that, if specified, could reduce the incidence of certain diseases, directly related to the transmission of environmental conditions and paternal experience.
Histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation in sperm is transmitted to the embryo and associated with diet-induced phenotypes in the offspring. Ariane Lismer et al. Developmental Cell (2021).DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2021.01.014
Photo: Karin Henseler en Pixabay.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.