We are more than our DNA : Discovering a new mechanism of epigenetic inheritance

Giacomo Cavalli’s team at the Institute of Human Genetics (University of Montpellier / CNRS), in collaboration with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA),1 has demonstrated the existence of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance2 (TEI) among Drosophila fruit flies. By temporarily modifying the function of Polycomb Group (PcG) proteins—which play an essential role in development—the researchers obtained fruit fly lines having the same DNA sequence but different eye colors. An example of epigenetic inheritance, this color diversity reflects varying degrees of heritable, but reversible, gene repression by PcG proteins. It is observed in both transgenic and wild-type lines and can be modified by environmental conditions such as ambient temperature. The scientists’ work is published in Nature Genetics (Monday, April 24, 2017).