News Release

Mice fathers pass down stress responses to offspring via sperm

Heritable stress responses linked to changes in sperm's genetic information

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society for Neuroscience

Mice Fathers Pass Down Stress Responses to Offspring Via Sperm

image: Paternal exposure to chronic stress alters stress sensitivity of male offspring in adulthood. In sons produced by natural mating, there was a main effect of chronic stress in social interaction (SI) testing. Control and resilient sons had a higher SI ratio after CSDS exposure, whereas susceptible sons did not show this effect. There was a similar effect in sons produced by artificial insemination. view more 

Credit: Cunningham et al., <em>JNeurosci</em> 2021

Male mice more susceptible to stress can pass down their behaviors to offspring via changes in their sperm's genetic code, according to new research published in JNeurosci.

Stressful experiences alter gene expression, which parents can pass down to their offspring. But it was unclear if sperm itself transmits this information, or if behavioral cues between the parents play a larger role.

Cunningham et al. tracked the stress response of male mice after ten days of chronic stress and sorted them into resilient and susceptible groups, based on the severity of their response. The offspring of resilient and control mice showed decreased stress behaviors compared to the offspring of the susceptible mice. The same pattern appeared in offspring conceived via artificial insemination, indicating sperm plays a direct role in the transmission of stress responses. The researchers also sequenced the RNA in the father's sperm -- the transcriptome -- before and after the chronic stress. Stress changed 1460 genes in susceptible mice but only 62 genes in resilient mice. These results reveal sperm transmits short-term environmental information to offspring through changes in the transcriptome.


Paper title: Sperm Transcriptional State Associated With Paternal Transmission of Stress Phenotypes

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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