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Sperm can show signs of a mother’s stress

By Tim Sandle     Jul 12, 2014 in Science
Cambridge - Scientists report that mice that are malnourished while pregnant can pass down genetic markers of such stress to their sons’ sperm.
With the research, scientists from the U.K.’s University of Cambridge showed that the germ cells of male mice whose mothers were malnourished while pregnant showed more hypomethylated DNA than did male mice whose mothers received the proper nutrition. Hypomethylated DNA is abnormal and it is linked to many disease processes, such as cancer.
For the study, The Scientist notes, scientists decreased by half the caloric intake of mice during their last week of pregnancy. This is thought to be the time when epigenetic reprogramming of male germ cells occurs. Epigenetics is the study of changes in the expression of genes caused by certain base pairs in DNA, or RNA, being "turned off" or "turned on" again, through chemical reactions. Many scientists are of the view that environmental factors can affect the genetic make-up.
After assessing the genome-wide methylation state of the sperm of the first-generation sons of undernourished mothers, the researchers found that these sperm had 111 hypomethylated regions not present in the sperm from control mice. From this they concluded that stressed mothers can pass on genetic differences to their male off-spring had the mothers not been stressed.
The research has been published in the journal Science, in a paper headed "In utero undernourishment perturbs the adult sperm methylome and intergenerational metabolism."
More about Sperm, Mice, Stress, Epigenetics, Genetics
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