Insulin-like signalling to the maternal germline controls progeny response to osmotic stress.


Journal Article

In 1893 August Weismann proposed that information about the environment could not pass from somatic cells to germ cells, a hypothesis now known as the Weismann barrier. However, recent studies have indicated that parental exposure to environmental stress can modify progeny physiology and that parental stress can contribute to progeny disorders. The mechanisms regulating these phenomena are poorly understood. We report that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans can protect itself from osmotic stress by entering a state of arrested development and can protect its progeny from osmotic stress by increasing the expression of the glycerol biosynthetic enzyme GPDH-2 in progeny. Both of these protective mechanisms are regulated by insulin-like signalling: insulin-like signalling to the intestine regulates developmental arrest, while insulin-like signalling to the maternal germline regulates glycerol metabolism in progeny. Thus, there is a heritable link between insulin-like signalling to the maternal germline and progeny metabolism and gene expression. We speculate that analogous modulation of insulin-like signalling to the germline is responsible for effects of the maternal environment on human diseases that involve insulin signalling, such as obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Burton, NO; Furuta, T; Webster, AK; Kaplan, REW; Baugh, LR; Arur, S; Horvitz, HR

Published Date

  • March 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 19 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 252 - 257

PubMed ID

  • 28166192

Pubmed Central ID

  • 28166192

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1476-4679

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1465-7392

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/ncb3470


  • eng