Nongenetic inheritance of the impact of traumatic stress across generations in mice
Brain Research Institute University and ETH Zürich
Behavior in mammals is strongly influenced by environmental factors, particularly when experienced during early postnatal life. While positive factors can favor proper behavioral responses, negative factors such as traumatic events can alter behavior and induce diseases like borderline personality disorder and bipolar depression. Such disorders are usually marked in the individuals directly exposed but can affect their offspring sometimes across several generations. The biological mechanisms responsible for the transmission of trauma-induced symptoms from parent to offspring are thought to involve non-genetic mechanisms. In this talk Isabelle Mansuy will present an experimental model of early traumatic stress in mice and show evidence for the implication of non-genetic mechanisms in the expression and inheritance of such trauma. The symptoms exhibited in this mouse model are transmitted to the following offspring across several generations and are associated with epigenetic alterations involving persistent changes in DNA methylation at the promoter-associated CpG-island of several genes, in the brain of the offspring and the germline of their father. Further to DNA methylation, other non-genetic mechanisms involving regulation by non-coding RNAs and histone posttranslational modifications are also involved.