Epigenetic DNA methylation and demethylation with the developing fetus

This extremely dense and informative 2014 UK summary study provided details about genomic imprinting:

“An unusual epigenetic process in that it is heritable and results in autosomal gene expression according to parent of origin.”

Several notes of interest:

  • Figure 3 had a fascinating sketch of how the fetus caused the mother’s hypothalamus to:

    “Determine forward maternal planning by directing/orchestrating maternal physiology and postnatal maternalism to synchronize with development of the fetus.”

  • Figure 4 followed up with a flowchart of how – with a female fetus – coexistence of three matrilineal generations in the pregnant female (her, the fetus, and the grandmother’s influence on the developing fetus’ ovarian oocytes) enabled intergenerational forward planning.
  • The study briefly noted significance of genomic imprinting on male sexual behavior, where, if processes didn’t proceed normally at this early stage of a male fetus’ development, could result in suboptimal adult behavior that didn’t change with experience.


I’ll quote a few other unrelated passages that caught my eye.

“Reproductive success of mammals also places a considerable burden on matrilineal time and energy, with some 95% of mammalian female adult life committed to pregnancy, lactation, and maternal care.

Offspring that receive optimal nourishment and improved maternal care will be predisposed to develop a hypothalamus that is both genetically and epigenetically predisposed to this same type of good mothering.

The fetus controls its own destiny in times of acute starvation, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy, by short-term sacrifice of its placenta to preserve resources critical for brain development.”

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/22/6834.full “Genomic imprinting, action, and interaction of maternal and fetal genomes”

This post has somehow become a target for spammers, and I’ve disabled comments. Readers can comment on other posts and indicate that they want their comment to apply here, and I’ll re-enable comments.

2 thoughts on “Epigenetic DNA methylation and demethylation with the developing fetus

  1. This is a great website. I have undergone therapay with Janov and I agree that a lot of the current research can be used to support primal therapy and theory, if only the researchers understood the primal principals. As it stands the research industry does not have one overriding paradigm in which to interpret their findings, and so valuable research gets lost in the multitude of personal belief systems.
    Primal Theory provides an overriding paradigm for the whole of the human condition, from mental disorders, relationships, childbirth, childrearing, physical ill health, the nature of love etc etc.
    Gil Bates

  2. Thanks, Gil, I appreciate your interest!

    Good point about valuable research being lost. This study we’re commenting on, for example, has media exposure of only 1 tweet over the 4 months since it’s been available on PNAS.org. No news organizations covered it, nobody other than me blogged about it, no one referenced it on Facebook.

    Are beliefs systems the reason this study is ignored? Possibly.

    From the Notes on the role of dynamic DNA methylation in mammalian development study abstract: “..causation has not been demonstrated and to date there is no reasonable proof of the existence of a complex biochemical system that activates and represses genes via reversible DNA methylation.”

    How likely is it that the authors are going to seek out evidence that doesn’t confirm their statement? Such evidence is available: the term “demethylation” is mentioned 17 times in the study we’re commenting on alone! It’s also the premise of science that they need to establish the truth of scientific statements.

    Notwithstanding the above, beliefs and other obstacles guide our behavior.

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