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Open Access Research article

Gene bionetworks involved in the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered mate preference: environmental epigenetics and evolutionary biology

Michael K Skinner1*, Marina I Savenkova1, Bin Zhang2, Andrea C Gore3 and David Crews4

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Reproductive Biology, School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-4236, USA

2 Department of Genetics & Genomic Sciences, Institute of Genomics and Multiscale Biology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA

3 Pharmacology and Toxicology, Austin, Texas

4 Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:377  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-377

Published: 16 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Mate preference behavior is an essential first step in sexual selection and is a critical determinant in evolutionary biology. Previously an environmental compound (the fungicide vinclozolin) was found to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of an altered sperm epigenome and modified mate preference characteristics for three generations after exposure of a gestating female.

Results

The current study investigated gene networks involved in various regions of the brain that correlated with the altered mate preference behavior in the male and female. Statistically significant correlations of gene clusters and modules were identified to associate with specific mate preference behaviors. This novel systems biology approach identified gene networks (bionetworks) involved in sex-specific mate preference behavior. Observations demonstrate the ability of environmental factors to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of this altered evolutionary biology determinant.

Conclusions

Combined observations elucidate the potential molecular control of mate preference behavior and suggests environmental epigenetics can have a role in evolutionary biology.

Keywords:
Epigenetics; Brain; Networks; Evolution; Behavior