Current Genetics

, Volume 64, Issue 6, pp 1221–1228 | Cite as

Mechanisms for the epigenetic inheritance of stress response in single cells

  • Yuan Xue
  • Murat AcarEmail author


Cells have evolved to dynamically respond to different types of environmental and physiological stress conditions. The information about a previous stress stimulus experience by a mother cell can be passed to its descendants, allowing them to better adapt to and survive in new environments. In recent years, live-cell imaging combined with cell-lineage tracking approaches has elucidated many important principles that guide stress inheritance at the single-cell and population level. In this review, we summarize different strategies that cells can employ to pass the ‘memory’ of previous stress responses to their descendants. Among these strategies, we focus on a recent discovery of how specific features of Msn2 nucleo-cytoplasmic shuttling dynamics could be inherited across cell lineages. We also discuss how stress response can be transmitted to progenies through changes in chromatin and through partitioning of anti-stress factors and/or damaged macromolecules between mother and daughter cells during cell division. Finally, we highlight how emergent technologies will help address open questions in the field.


Stress response Msn2 Epigenetic inheritance Single cells Yeast Mammalian cells 



We thank Lolahon Kadiri and Jessica Ye for critical reading of the manuscript. MA acknowledges funding from the National Institutes of Health (1DP2AG050461-01 and 1U54CA209992-01).

Author contributions

YX and MA designed the manuscript. YX drafted the manuscript. MA edited and revised the drafted manuscript. YX and MA read, discussed, and approved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular Cellular and Developmental BiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Systems Biology InstituteYale UniversityWest HavenUSA
  3. 3.Interdepartmental Program in Computational Biology and BioinformaticsYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.Department of PhysicsYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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