In a study published recently in the journal Nature, University of Otago researchers report that memory in the form of 'DNA methylation' is preserved between generations of fish, in contrast to humans where this is almost entirely erased.
DNA is often compared to a large book, with the words representing an instruction manual for life. DNA methylation encodes additional information that we are only starting to understand -- a little like discovering handwritten notes in the margins of the book saying which pages are the most important, or recording newly acquired information. In humans, these notes are removed at each generation but this apparently does not occur in fish.
First - Author - Study - University - Otago
First author of the study, University of Otago Anatomy PhD student Oscar Ortega elaborates; "Methylation sits on top of DNA and is used to control which genes are turned on and off. It also helps to define cellular identity and function. In humans and other mammals, DNA methylation is erased at each generation; however, we found that global erasure of DNA methylation memory does not occur at all in the fish we studied."
In recent years much attention has been paid to the idea that significant events such as war or famine can have a lasting effect on subsequent generations through the inheritance of altered DNA methylation patterns. While these 'transgenerational' DNA memory effects appear to be potentially important, because of DNA methylation...
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