The notion that intergenerational or transgenerational inheritance operates solely through genetic means is slowly being eroded: epigenetic mechanisms have been shown to induce heritable changes in gene activity in plants and metazoans. Inheritance of DNA methylation provides a potential pathway for environmentally induced phenotypes to contribute to evolution of species and populations. However, in basal metazoans, it is unknown whether inheritance of CpG methylation patterns occurs across the genome (as in plants) or as rare exceptions (as in mammals). Here, we demonstrate genome-wide intergenerational transmission of CpG methylation patterns from parents to sperm and larvae in a reef-building coral. We also show variation in hypermethylated genes in corals from distinct environments, indicative of responses to variations in temperature and salinity. These findings support a role of DNA methylation in the transgenerational inheritance of traits in corals, which may extend to enhancing their capacity to adapt to climate change.
- dna methylation
- intergenerational inheritance