Maternal effects on offspring aging

Phenotypic plasticity may occur not only in an individual, but also across generations. Transgenerational phenotypic plasticity, known as a “maternal effects,” occurs when the Phenotypic plasticity may occur not only in an individual, but also across generations. Intergenerational or transgenerational phenotypic plasticity, known as a “maternal effect,” occurs when a mother’s physiology or response to her environment causes a change in offspring phenotype without a change in the genome. While many studies have focused on the detrimental effects on progeny of advanced maternal age and harmful prenatal environments, little is known about the role of beneficial maternal inheritance on aging.  

Female Brachionus manjavacas carrying three eggs.  

Effect of maternal age on lifespan and fecundity in Brachionus manjavacas.  (A) Survivorship and fecundity of the maternal generation.  Offspring hatched at maternal ages of 3, 5, 7, and 9 days (red arrows) were collected to measure offspring lifespan (B) and fecundity (C).  Offspring lifespan and fecundity declined significantly with increasing maternal age. 

We are investigating the effects of maternal age and maternal diet on the lifespan, reproduction, and health of Brachionus manjavacas offspring. We have found that with increasing maternal age, the lifespan, health, and fecundity of offspring decreases significantly. Interestingly, maternal caloric restriction partially rescues these effects, increasing the mean lifespan and fecundity of female offspring, even when those offspring are not directly exposed to caloric restriction.  These findings point to the exciting possibility that beneficial maternal environments may have a positive effect on offspring aging, perhaps over multiple generations. 

Our current work explores the molecular and cellular mechanisms that mediate maternal age effects, including the potential roles of age-related changes in mitochondrial function and dynamics, and the possible intergenerational regulation of maternal effects by epigenetic histone modifications. 

Associated Publications

Bock, M.J., G.C. Jarvis, E.L. Corey, E.E. Stone, K.E. Gribble‡. 2019. Maternal age alters offspring lifespan, fitness, and lifespan extension under caloric restrictionScientific Reports 9:3138 

Gribble, K.E., G. Jarvis,* M.J. Bock,* and D.B. Mark Welch. 2014. Maternal caloric restriction partially rescues the deleterious effects of advanced maternal age on offspringAging Cell, 13(4):623-630. Best Paper Runner Up, Aging Cell, 2014

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