Some people aren’t always happy about what gets passed on from their parents. It’s great to have your Dad’s strong cheekbones but not so great to have his lactose intolerance. It turns out we may acquire even more from our fathers than we ever thought during our germ cell years. A new study from Elizabeth Thomas’s lab finds that Huntington’s disease (HD) drug treatment can elicit transgenerational epigenetic effects (rather than transgenerational inheritance).
This group of researchers delved into their previous data on the histone deacetylase (HDAC)1/3-inhibitor HDACi 4b and found that DNA methylation-related genes were differentially expressed. They followed this trail to look at how the compound affected DNA methylation in mouse and human HD models and showed that HDACi 4b causes epigenetic changes in sperm, which manifest in that next generation as they were also exposed as germ cells.
Getting into the nitty-gritty of what they found:
- The authors used microarrays to examine DNA methylation patterns in the brain and muscle of HDACi 4b treated HD mice and human HD fibroblasts.
- Y chromosome genes were disproportionally affected by HDACi 4b induced DNA methylation changes.
- Y chromosome DNA methylation increased at specific genes in human fibroblasts and mouse sperm.
- Offspring HD mice of treated males had improved HD phenotypes, with males showing better improvements than females (owing to the Y chromosome specificity).
So when considering the good and the not so good in our parents, we must now also their diet, but also consider drugs they’ve taken that affect their germ cells. So if your Dad took good care of himself, maybe cut him a little slack on the fact that you can’t eat cheese.
Read the full report in PNAS, January 2015.