Epigenetic inheritance - can we take control over our metabolic programming?

A genuine understanding of how different diets are converted into molecular patterns in the sperm and their interaction with the epigenetic machinery in the embryo is critical.

Graph, obesity and epigenetics.Graph, obesity and epigenetics.Metabolic memories, set by the parents, might affect eating behavior and obesity in future generations. The concept of us inheriting more than the genes from our parents’, and that this inheritance is dependent on environmental cues, touches on the theories of “use-and-disuse” and “pangenesis” suggested by Lamarck and Darwin. Using Drosophila, paralleled with translational studies in humans, our team investigates the fundamentals of such epigenetic inheritance.

In humans we have found a direct link between what we eat and the sncRNA-code in sperm (Plos Biology, 2019). Changing the diet for just one week resulted in specific changes in tsRNA as well as mitochondrial sncRNA. A bit surprisingly, we found a correlation between sperm motility and the sncRNA-code, suggesting a shared etiology between male fertility and intergenerational metabolic responses.

The rapid responsiveness of human sperm is in line with earlier findings where, me and colleagues, found that both low and high-sugar diets for just two days in Drosophila adult males elicit obesity in the next generation (Cell, 2014). Capitalizing on the large number of genetic tools available in Drosophila we showed that this is a Su(var)3-9/Su(var)4-20/SetDB1 dependent process that results in select reprogramming of chromatin in the offspring. 


Video about the research 

Fruit flies helping to solve the riddle of obesity

Our weight is governed by our lifestyle and our genes. But new research at Linköping University has shown that the lifestyle of parents – before children are conceived – appears to impact their offspring’s weight. Anita Öst, docent at Linköping University, is also a Wallenberg Academy Fellow.

Selected publications

Paternal Diet Defines Offspring Chromatin State and Intergenerational Obesity

Journal: CELL (2014)
Authors: Anita Öst, Adelheid Lempradl, Eduard Casas, Melanie Weigert, Theodor Tiko, Merdin Deniz, Lorena Pantano, Ulrike Boenisch, Pavel M Itskov mfl. 
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Attenuated mTOR signaling and enhanced autophagy in adipocytes from obese patients with type 2 diabetes

Journal: Molecular Medicine (2010)
Authors: Anita Öst, Kristoffer Svensson, Iida Ruishalme, Cecilia Brännmark, Niclas Franck, Hans Krook, Per Sandström, Preben Kjolhede & Peter Strålfors
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Retinol-binding protein-4 attenuates insulin-induced phosphorylation of IRS1 and ERK1/2 in primary human adipocytes

Journal: The Fasbeb Journal (2007)
Authors: Anita Öst, Anna Danielsson, Martin Lidén, Ulf Eriksson, Fredrik H. Nystrom, and Peter Strålfors
To the article! 




Metabolism - a plainsplain Youtube channel

These video clips are produced for teaching at the Medical programme at the Faculty of medicine and health sciences at Linköping university.

To the Youtube channel!