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The placental gateway of maternal transgenerational epigenetic inheritance

Sailasree, S. Purnima, Srivastava, Surabhi, Mishra, Rakesh K.
Journal of genetics 2017 v.96 no.3 pp. 465-482
adults, assisted reproductive technologies, embryogenesis, evolution, gametogenesis, genome, genomic imprinting, inheritance (genetics), lifestyle, mammals, meiosis, placenta, pregnancy
While much of our understanding of genetic inheritance is based on the genome of the organism, it is becoming clear that there is an ample amount of epigenetic inheritance, which though reversible, escapes erasing process during gametogenesis and goes on to the next generation. Several examples of transgenerational inheritance of epigenetic features with potential impact on embryonic development and subsequent adult life have come to light. In placental mammals, the placenta is an additional route for epigenetic information flow. This information does not go through any meiotic reprogramming and is, therefore, likely to have a more profound influence on the organism. This also has the implication of providing epigenetic instructions for several months, which is clearly a maternal advantage. Although less well-known, there is also an impact of the embryo in emitting genetic information to the maternal system that remains well beyond the completion of the pregnancy. In this review, we discuss several factors in the context of the evolution of this mammal-specific phenomenon, including genomic imprinting, micromosaicism, and assisted reproduction. We also highlight how this kind of inheritance might require attention in the modern lifestyle within the larger context of the evolutionary process.