Epigenetic Inheritance in Mammals

  • Johannes Bohacek
  • Isabelle M. Mansuy
Part of the Research and Perspectives in Neurosciences book series (NEUROSCIENCE)


The epigenetic state of a cell is determined by epigenome that represents the ensemble of modifications occurring at the chromatin. These modifications involve the specific marking of DNA and protein histones, which provides a potent and dynamic mode of regulation of the genome without changing the DNA sequence itself. In mammals, the epigenome was previously thought to be fully erased after fertilization and then partly reestablished for further cellular development and differentiation. It is now recognized that erasure is not complete and that some epigenetic marks are maintained and passed to the offspring. Such maintenance is postulated to provide a unique mode of epigenetic inheritance, but this proposal has been the subject of much debate. Now, there is increasing evidence to show that it does occur in rodents and humans. This review discusses some of this evidence and describes examples of epigenomic transmission of traits influenced by environmental factors such as diet, toxic agents, stress and environmental enrichment across generations.


Maternal Care Early Life Stress Epigenetic Inheritance Histone PTMs Reduce Birth Weight 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Medical Faculty of the University of Zürich and Department of Biology, Brain Research InstituteSwiss Federal Institute of TechnologyZürichSwitzerland

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