Transgenerational inheritance of fetal alcohol exposure adverse effects on immune gene interferon-ϒ

Gangisetty, O., Palagani, A. & Sarkar, D.K. Transgenerational inheritance of fetal alcohol exposure adverse effects on immune gene interferon-ϒ. Clin Epigenet 12, 70 (2020).



Alcohol exposures in utero have been shown to alter immune system functions in the offspring which persists into adulthood. However, it is not apparent why the in utero alcohol effect on the immune system persists into adulthood of fetal alcohol-exposed offspring. The objective of this study was to determine the long-term effects of fetal alcohol exposure on the production of interferon-ϒ (IFN-ϒ), a cytokine known to regulate both innate and adaptive immunity.


Isogenic Fisher 344 rats were bred to produce pregnant dams, which were fed with a liquid diet containing 6.7% alcohol between gestation days 7 and 21 and pair-fed with an isocaloric liquid diet or fed ad libitum with rat chow; their male and female offspring were used for the study. F1-F3 generation rats were used when they were 2 to 3 months old. Fetal alcohol exposure effects on the Ifn-ɣ gene was determined by measuring the gene promoter methylation and mRNA and protein expression in the spleen. Additionally, transgenerational studies were conducted to evaluate the germline-transmitted effects of fetal alcohol exposure on the Ifn-ɣ gene.


Fetal alcohol exposure reduced the expression of Ifn-ɣ mRNA and IFN-ϒ protein while it increased the proximal promoter methylation of the Ifn-ɣ gene in both male and female offspring during the adult period. Transgenerational studies revealed that the reduced levels of Ifn-ɣ expression and increased levels of its promoter methylation persisted only in F2 and F3 generation males derived from the male germ line.


Overall, these findings provide the evidence that fetal alcohol exposures produce an epigenetic mark on the Ifn-ɣ gene that passes through multiple generations via the male germ line. These data provide the first evidence that the male germ line transmits fetal alcohol exposure’s adverse effects on the immune system.

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