Stressed corals set up progeny for a better life

19 February, 2020

​Changes in DNA methylation patterns during a coral’s lifetime can be passed down to their progeny. KAUST researchers believe they have found the first evidence of this change, and they suggest that the finding could help develop new strategies for coral conservation.

DNA methylation is the reversible attachment of a methyl group to a cytosine, one of the four nitrogenous bases that form the building blocks of our genomes. It is an epigenetic change that modifies how a gene is used.

“In mammals, DNA methylation patterns are reset across generations, except in rare exceptions,” says postdoc Yi Jin Liew. “In plants, however, they are mostly inherited across generations.”

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Image: A species of brain coral exhibits traits that indicate epigenetic acclimatization within generations.
© 2020 Emily Howells