Intergenerational adaptations to stress are evolutionarily conserved, stress-specific, and have deleterious trade-offs.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Despite reports of parental exposure to stress promoting physiological adaptations in progeny in diverse organisms, there remains considerable debate over the significance and evolutionary conservation of such multigenerational effects. Here, we investigate four independent models of intergenerational adaptations to stress in Caenorhabditis elegans - bacterial infection, eukaryotic infection, osmotic stress, and nutrient stress - across multiple species. We found that all four intergenerational physiological adaptations are conserved in at least one other species, that they are stress -specific, and that they have deleterious tradeoffs in mismatched environments. By profiling the effects of parental bacterial infection and osmotic stress exposure on progeny gene expression across species, we established a core set of 587 genes that exhibited a greater than twofold intergenerational change in expression in response to stress in C. elegans and at least one other species, as well as a set of 37 highly conserved genes that exhibited a greater than twofold intergenerational change in expression in all four species tested. Furthermore, we provide evidence suggesting that presumed adaptive and deleterious intergenerational effects are molecularly related at the gene expression level. Lastly, we found that none of the effects we detected of these stresses on C. elegans F1 progeny gene expression persisted transgenerationally three generations after stress exposure. We conclude that intergenerational responses to stress play a substantial and evolutionarily conserved role in regulating animal physiology and that the vast majority of the effects of parental stress on progeny gene expression are reversible and not maintained transgenerationally.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Burton, NO; Willis, A; Fisher, K; Braukmann, F; Price, J; Stevens, L; Baugh, LR; Reinke, A; Miska, EA

Published Date

  • October 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 10 /

Start / End Page

  • e73425 -

PubMed ID

  • 34622777

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8570697

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2050-084X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2050-084X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.7554/elife.73425


  • eng