Non-genetic inheritance via the male germline in mammals

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Numerous studies in humans and in animal models have demonstrated that exposure to adverse environmental conditions in early life results in long-term structural and functional changes in an organism, increasing the risk of cardiometabolic, neurobehavioural and reproductive disorders in later life. Such effects are not limited to the first generation offspring but may be transmitted to a second or a number of subsequent generations, through non-genomic mechanisms. While the transmission of ‘programmed’ effects through the maternal line could occur as a consequence of multiple influences, for example, altered maternal physiology, the inheritance of effects through the male line is more difficult to explain and there is much interest in a potential role for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. In this review, we will discuss the mechanisms by which induced effects may be transmitted through the paternal lineage, with a particular focus on the role of epigenetic inheritance. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Developing differences: early-life effects and evolutionary medicine’.




Baxter, F. A., & Drake, A. J. (2019, April 15). Non-genetic inheritance via the male germline in mammals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Royal Society Publishing.

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