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9 - Environmental Pressures on Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance

An Evolutionary Development Mechanism Influencing Atypical Neurodevelopment in Autism?

from Part III - Evolution and Neuroscience

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 March 2020

Lance Workman
University of South Wales
Will Reader
Sheffield Hallam University
Jerome H. Barkow
Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia
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Research in developmental neuropsychiatric conditions has revealed morphological and functional divergences in the brain. In some cases, the divergences occur due to one or two highly penetrant genomic mutations. In case such as autism, mutations in varied sets of genes may produce a convergent autism behavioral phenotype. It is thus likely that there may be other forms of non-genomic regulation of gene expression during development affecting behavioral outcome. Epigenetic gene regulation is one such mechanism that can permanently switch on or switch off gene expression, and these epigenetic changes can be inherited from one cell stage to another during differentiation, mimicking the effects of genomic mutations. Epigenetic gene regulation occurring during early developmental stages of cellular differentiation, which are highly sensitive to environmental cues, is the primary mechanism responsible for the phenomenon known as evolutionary development or “evo-devo.” This chapter discusses these mechanisms in the context of autism and the environmental factors that influence it.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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