Its one of the defining tenets of modern biology: The characteristics of a living organism are coded into the organisms DNA, and only information in the DNA can be passed to the organisms offspring.
A new study by scientists at The Wistar Institute, however, suggests that this is not the full story. Instructions that control gene activity and are recorded solely in the molecular packaging of the DNA can also be passed to an organisms progeny, according to the new data. This heritable information is distinct from the genetic information coded in the DNA and is referred to by scientists as being "epigenetic" in nature. A report on the study appears in the November 1 issue of Genes & Development.
"The implication of our findings is that, parallel to the genetic information in our DNA, we also inherit epigenetic information to ensure that the regulation of our genes is executed correctly," says Jumin Zhou, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the gene expression and regulation program at Wistar and senior author on the new study.
Franklin Hoke | EurekAlert!
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