Three Rules Explain Transgenerational Small RNA Inheritance in C. elegans

Leah Houri-Zeevi, Yael Korem Kohanim, Olga Antonova, Oded Rechavi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Experiences trigger transgenerational small RNA-based responses in C. elegans nematodes. Dedicated machinery ensures that heritable effects are reset, but how the responses segregate in the population is unknown. We show that isogenic individuals differ dramatically in the persistence of transgenerational responses. By examining lineages of more than 20,000 worms, three principles emerge: (1) The silencing each mother initiates is distributed evenly among her descendants; heritable RNAi dissipates but is uniform in every generation. (2) Differences between lineages arise because the mothers that initiate heritable responses stochastically assume different “inheritance states” that determine the progeny's fate. (3) The likelihood that an RNAi response would continue to be inherited increases the more generations it lasts. The inheritance states are determined by HSF-1, which regulates silencing factors and, accordingly, small RNA levels. We found that, based on the parents’ inheritance state, the descendants’ developmental rate in response to stress can be predicted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1186-1197.e12
Issue number5
StatePublished - 3 Sep 2020


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