Evidence for germline non-genetic inheritance of human phenotypes and diseases.

TitleEvidence for germline non-genetic inheritance of human phenotypes and diseases.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsSenaldi L, Smith-Raska M
JournalClin Epigenetics
Date Published2020 09 11

It is becoming increasingly apparent that certain phenotypes are inherited across generations independent of the information contained in the DNA sequence, by factors in germ cells that remain largely uncharacterized. As evidence for germline non-genetic inheritance of phenotypes and diseases continues to grow in model organisms, there are fewer reports of this phenomenon in humans, due to a variety of complications in evaluating this mechanism of inheritance in humans. This review summarizes the evidence for germline-based non-genetic inheritance in humans, as well as the significant challenges and important caveats that must be considered when evaluating this process in human populations. Most reports of this process evaluate the association of a lifetime exposure in ancestors with changes in DNA methylation or small RNA expression in germ cells, as well as the association between ancestral experiences and the inheritance of a phenotype in descendants, down to great-grandchildren in some cases. Collectively, these studies provide evidence that phenotypes can be inherited in a DNA-independent manner; the extent to which this process contributes to disease development, as well as the cellular and molecular regulation of this process, remain largely undefined.

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Alternate JournalClin Epigenetics
PubMed ID32917273
PubMed Central IDPMC7488552

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