Environmental effects on phenotype can be mediated by epigenetic modifications. The epigenetic state of the murine Avy allele is highly variable, and determines phenotypic effects that vary in a mosaic spectrum that can be shifted by in utero exposure to methyl donor supplementation. We have asked if methyl donor supplementation affects the germ-line epigenetic state of the Avy allele. We find that the somatic epigenetic state of Avy is affected by in utero methyl donor supplementation only when the allele is paternally contributed. Exposure to methyl donor supplementation during midgestation shifts Avy phenotypes not only in the mice exposed as fetuses, but in their offspring. This finding indicates that methyl donors can change the epigenetic state of the Avy allele in the germ line, and that the altered state is retained through the epigenetic resetting that takes place in gametogenesis and embryogenesis. Thus a mother's diet may have an enduring influence on succeeding generations, independent of later changes in diet. Although other reports have suggested such heritable epigenetic changes, this study demonstrates that a specific mammalian gene can be subjected to germ-line epigenetic change.
|Number of pages
|Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
|Published - Nov 14 2006