In DepthEpigenetics

Sperm RNA fragments modify offspring metabolism

Science  01 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6268, pp. 13
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6268.13

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"Impossible" is how biologists once described so-called epigenetic inheritance, in which something other than a DNA sequence passes a trait between generations. In recent years, however, researchers have found many examples of this phenomenon. A male mouse's diet and stress level, for instance, can tweak offspring metabolism. Researchers are still trying to determine how offspring inherit a father's metabolic attributes and physiological condition. Some evidence implicates chemical modification of DNA. Other work by neuroscientist Tracy Bale of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia and colleagues has found that mammalian sperm pack gene-regulating molecules called microRNAs. Now, two new studies highlight a different class of RNAs, transfer RNAs, carried by sperm.