DNA is central to the propagation and evolution of most living organisms due to the essential process of its self-replication. Yet it also encodes factors that permit epigenetic (not included in DNA sequence) flow of information from parents to their offspring and beyond. The known mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance include chemical modifications of DNA and chromatin, as well as regulatory RNAs. All these factors can modulate gene expression programs in the ensuing generations. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans
is recognized as a pioneer organism in transgenerational epigenetic inheritance research. Recent advances in C. elegans
epigenetics include the discoveries of control mechanisms that limit the duration of RNA-based epigenetic inheritance, periodic DNA motifs that counteract epigenetic silencing establishment, new mechanistic insights into epigenetic inheritance carried by sperm, and the tantalizing examples of inheritance of sensory experiences. This review aims to highlight new findings in epigenetics research in C. elegans
with the main focus on transgenerational epigenetic phenomena dependent on small RNAs.
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