Epigenetic Memory's On/Off Switch Found

Epigenetics is the study of inheritable changes in gene expression not directly coded in our DNA. It appears that our life experiences can be passed on to our children, and to future generations, by this mechanism.


(From Transgenerational Small RNA Inheritance)
The duration of epigenetic responses underpinning
transgenerational inheritance is determined by an active
mechanism relying on the production of small RNAs
and modulation of RNAi factors, dictating whether ancestral
RNAi responses would be memorized or forgotten.
(credit: Leah Houri-Ze’evi et al./Cell)

“Until now, it has been assumed that a passive dilution or decay governs the inheritance of epigenetic responses,” said Oded Rechavi, PhD, from TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience. “But we showed that there is an active process that regulates epigenetic inheritance down through generations.”

The scientists discovered that specific genes, which they named “MOTEK” (Modified Transgenerational Epigenetic Kinetics), were involved in turning epigenetic transmissions on and off.

“We discovered how to manipulate the transgenerational duration of epigenetic inheritance in worms by switching ‘on’ and ‘off’ the small RNAs that worms use to regulate [these] genes,” said Rechavi.*

These switches are controlled by a feedback interaction between gene-regulating small RNAs, which are inheritable, and the MOTEK genes that are required to produce and transmit these small RNAs across generations.

The feedback determines whether epigenetic memory will continue to the progeny or not, and how long each epigenetic response will last.

The first time I read about this idea was in an excellent series of fantasy novels by Barbara Hambly. In her 1982 Darwath trilogy, she writes about how wizards of several thousand years ago succeeded in tying information to the DNA of selected individuals. In the story, several people from 1980's California find themselves transported across the Void to another planet and the Realm of Darwath. They face a deadly species of queerly magical beings - the Dark - who destroyed civilization thousands of years ago. Everything that was made of paper (like books and records) were burned to stave off attacks by the Dark. Tying memories to a few suitable bloodlines was the only way to preserve a record of that period that would endure.

"We have all talked of the heritable memories of the House of Dare," she went on... maybe the old wizards, the engineers who raised the Keep, knew that records do get lost, especially when, as you said, fire is the principal weapon."

Gil's finger stabbed out like a sword. "They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record! A record that wouldn't get lost and couldn't be destroyed."

Via KurzweilAI.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/29/2016)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Biology ")

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.' - Peter Watts, 1999.

NASA's Prototype Lunar Greenhouse For Mars And Moon
'In contrast to the airless desolation outside, the interior of this five-acre greenhouse was the one most desirable place to be.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.

Researchers Say 'Biohybrid Robot' - Clarke Said 'Biot'
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.

Unique DNA To Foil Parts Counterfeiters
'... the only molecule, a unique protein amino acid, which could not be duplicated.' - Philip K. Dick, 1965.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Bat Bot Robotic Flapping-Wing Drone
'The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...'

NASA's Astronaut Rescue Ball
'Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..'

ARM Wants To Build Brain Chips
'Slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon...'

Sky Fence - A Drone-Proof Shield Created Over Prison
'There’s still a protective field over the whole thing. It volatilizes anything that tries to get through.'

Geoengineering The Atmosphere For Climate Change
'...a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.'

Archinaut Orbiting Robotic Factory
'mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Cryonic Preservation - The Last Perk You'll Ever Need
'Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?'

Computers Understand Humans By Watching And Modeling Them
Soon, your computer will be watching you... and judging you.

NASA Asks For Moon To Earth Delivery Ideas
'Authority's 3-g catapult was almost one hundred kilometers long...'

Musk Tunnels Wisely Restrict Drivers
Too many robots.

Robot Swarms Controlled With Augmented Reality
'You're not thinking in enough dimensions...'

MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
'Talk Between Robots radio...'

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.'

Rapid Automated Search For Habitable Planets Needed
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'

WatchSense Perfect For Fat-Fingered Smartwatch Owners
'Now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components...'

Digital Construction Platform Robot 3D Prints A Building
'It extrudes material like a spider.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.