Environmentally induced epigenetic memory

Fig. A current understanding of transgenerational inheritance of acquired traits in vertebrates.

Gene-environment interactions can lead to emergence of a phenotype. Environmental stressors are able to induce changes at the epigenetic level (chemical modifications on DNA structure) that are mitotically (and may be meiotically) stable. Environmental stressor-induced chemical modifications such as DNA methylation or histone modifications may or may not survive epigenetic reprogramming events during early blastulation or during respecification of primordial germ cells at the time of sex determination. It is believed that the modifications that survive or undergo erasure but reestablish later behave like permanent epigenetic memories. Such memories have been found to be associated with adverse health outcomes.

Our research is focused on unraveling of epigenetic memories established by a variety of environmental stressors that humans are exposed to in thier everyday life. We take in vitro cell culture, in vivo animal models, nextgen high throughout RNA/miRNA/epigenome sequencing, and bioinformatic approaches to dissect molecular underpinning of environmentally induced health effects across generations using an aquarium fish as a model. We anticipate finding permanent epigenetic memories that interfere with fine-tuned transcriptional wiring leading to abnormal behavior of a gene (or genes).

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