Sperm RNAs carry trauma-induced traits to the next generation

Prof. Isabelle Mansuy and colleagues demonstrate that small non-coding RNAs in sperm are involved in the transgenerational inheritance of traumatic stress in early life in mice.

Gene-environment interactions are determining factors for the etiology of psychiatric disorders, diabetes and cancer, and are thought to contribute to disease inheritance across generations. A new Nature Neuroscience paper by Isabelle Mansuy’s group demonstrates the involvement of small non-coding RNAs in the transgenerational inheritance of the effects of traumatic experiences. The paper, published in Nature Neuroscience, reports in mice that traumatic stress in postnatal life alters microRNA expression in serum and brain across generations, and affects non-coding RNAs in mature sperm of males directly exposed to trauma. Injection of sperm RNA isolated from the traumatized males into naïve fertilized oocytes is sufficient to recapitulate the behavioral and metabolic alterations in the resulting offspring. The authors conclude that sperm RNAs can act as transgenerational carriers of acquired traits.

Implication of sperm RNAs in transgenerational inheritance of the effects of early trauma in mice.
Gapp K, Jawaid A, Sarkies P, Bohacek J, Pelczar P, Prados J, Farinelli L, Miska E, Mansuy IM
Nat Neurosci. 2014 Apr 13 PubMed abstract