Genomic imprinting establishes the principle of epigenetic marks placed in one generation influencing gene expression in the next generation. This led to speculation that epigenetic gametic inheritance might underlie a form of transgenerational adaptation to major environmental challenges, such that exposures in one generation correlate with outcomes in the next generation(s). An ongoing collaboration between Umeå University, Sweden and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Childhood, Bristol University, UK has documented transgenerational correlations between food supply during the early life of the paternal grandparents and the grandchild's longevity, including associations with cardiovascular and diabetic deaths, and correlations between the onset of paternal smoking in mid-childhood and the body mass index of future sons. Whilst the mediating molecular mechanism(s) is unknown, the sex-specific transmission patterns and exposure-sensitive periods suggest a pre-evolved transgenerational response mechanism.
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