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July 11, 2019 Thursday 03:18:51 PM IST

Encoded learned behaviour

Teacher Insights

A team of Princeton scientists found that learned behaviours in C. elegans, a nematode, can be conveyed through the germline for multiple generations. (C. elegans is a primitive organism, that shares many of biological characteristics of human biology).Princeton University researchers have discovered that learned behaviours can be inherited for multiple generations in C. elegans, transmitted from parent to progeny via eggs and sperm cells.

It's well known that an organism's characteristics are encoded in genes that are passed down from parent to progeny through the eggs and sperm of the germline. The inheritance of some traits is determined exclusively by whether the individual receives the dominant or recessive form of an associated gene from each parent. Other heritable traits are influenced both by genetic makeup and by factors such as nutrition, temperature or environmental stress, which can affect the expression levels of related genes.

Researchers now found C. elegans can convey learned avoidance behaviour to their progeny. They found that when mother worms learned to avoid pathogenic P. aeruginosa, their progeny also knew to avoid the bacteria. When these modifications are made in germ cells, they can be passed down to future generations in a phenomenon known as transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.


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