18 June 2012

Blame, or credit, the ancestors

An article published in the Proceedings of the (US) National Academy of Sciences adds to mounting evidence that experiences of ancestors are a factor influencing your life through epigenetics.

Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses

Ancestral environmental exposures have previously been shown to promote epigenetic transgenerational inheritance and influence all aspects of an individual’s life history. In addition, proximate life events such as chronic stress have documented effects on the development of physiological, neural, and behavioral phenotypes in adulthood. We used a systems biology approach to investigate in male rats the interaction of the ancestral modifications carried transgenerationally in the germ line and the proximate modifications involving chronic restraint stress during adolescence. We find that a single exposure to a common-use fungicide (vinclozolin) three generations removed alters the physiology, behavior, metabolic activity, and transcriptome in discrete brain nuclei in descendant males, causing them to respond differently to chronic restraint stress. This alteration of baseline brain development promotes a change in neural genomic activity that correlates with changes in physiology and behavior, revealing the interaction of genetics, environment, and epigenetic transgenerational inheritance in the shaping of the adult phenotype. This is an important demonstration in an animal that ancestral exposure to an environmental compound modifies how descendants of these progenitor individuals perceive and respond to a stress challenge experienced during their own life history.


Padraig Og said...

No doubt this means something to someone, but for me a mere family historian with little knowledge of science, it means nothing to me.

Couldn't you translate it into plain English, please

Persephone said...

Can I have a go?

According to research on rats, it seems possible that stressful situations and environmental toxins our ancestors experienced during their lives have had a hand in shaping our personalities and bodily reactions.

I also am a mere family historian with little knowledge of science, but that's what I picked up from the article. I must say the "chronic restraint stress" and exposure to fungicide sound very unpleasant. Poor rats.

Old Census Scribe said...

Given the mess in the Euro zone at the moment, I would far rather find out where I could read about the financial discussions that accompanied Canada's progress toward Confederation. The economic differences between the Canadas and the maritimes must have been noticeable even then. PEI stayed out for 6 years. I learned Canadian history too long ago to know what went on back then. But does it have signigicance for today?