There are loads of things we’d hope to inherit from our parents, like intelligence, good looks or maybe even the family fortune, but we’re pretty sure altered DNA methylation wouldn’t make the list. No use worrying about that, though, since we can’t do much about it…and how often does that really happen anyway?
A group of fellow Southern Californian researchers from The Salk and Scripps Research Institutes and UC San Diego, tried to find out in a brand new report. Epigenetic info can be stored and passed on through DNA methylation. Changes in that methylation can generate stable “epialleles” that gene expression, but the rates of those spontaneous changes are still unknown.
MethylC- Seqing EpiAlleles
The SoCal scientists followed spontaneously occurring DNA methylation variation in Arabidopsis thaliana plants descended from a single-seed for 30 generations using MethylC- Seq to see how often the variation naturally occuring and the frequency that those changes eventually led to the emergence of epialleles.
114,287 CG single methylation polymorphisms (SMPs) and 2485 CG differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were identified, both of which diverged from the ancestral state, lending evidence to the concept that transgenerational epigenetic variation in DNA methylation leads to new allelic states, and alter transcription providing a mechanism for phenotypic diversity – all without any actual genetic mutations.
Most of the discovered epialleles are stable and heritable across generations making it a high priority in future studies to understand the basis for such transgenerational instability, as well as the mechanisms that modulate epiallelic states.
Inherit all the details at ScienceXpress, September 2011.