Growing a broccoli sprouts Victory Garden

To follow up How much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people? I’ve started growing broccoli sprouts, and a “30 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts incorporated daily into the diet” [1] program. I loosely follow [2]‘s sprouting guidelines. One preparation difference is microwaving per [3]‘s findings as follows:

I put broccoli sprouts into a small casserole dish, add enough water to cover them, then cook in my 1000W microwave on full power for 90 seconds. I immediately dump the broccoli sprouts into a colander and spray with cold water to stop heating at the desired temperature. A linear interpolation of Table S1 would place its temperature after 95 seconds on full 1000W power close to but not exceeding the 60°C goal:

(1000W / 950W) x (((108s -90s) / (60°C – 50°C)) * (95s – 90s))) + 50°C = 59.5°C

The first batch of broccoli sprouts was a mild, cabbage-tasting side dish to the home-style chicken soup on page 238 of [4].

The a priori hypotheses:

    1. 30 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts will not have “51 mg (117 μmol)” of glucoraphanin [1] because they “Used the elicitor methyl jasmonate (MeJA) by priming the seeds as well as by spraying daily. MeJA at concentrations of 156 μM act as stressor in the plant and enhances the biosynthesis of the phytochemicals glucosinolates. Compared to control plants without MeJA treatment, the content of compounds as the aliphatic glucosinolate glucoraphanin was enhanced up to 70%.” 117 μmol / 1.70 = 69 μmol is the expected glucoraphanin amount in 30 grams weight of fresh broccoli sprouts.
    2. One measurement [5] of how much sulforaphane is present in fresh broccoli sprouts before microwaving is 100 μmol / 111 g = .9 μmol / g. (.9 x 30 g) = 27 μmol is the expected sulforaphane amount in 30 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts.
    3. Microwaving the raw broccoli sprouts will convert the 69 μmol of glucoraphanin to 69 μmol of sulforaphane. Last week a [3] coauthor agreed to make the data available to facilitate calculations. While I’m waiting…The study said the Figure 3 HL60 sulforaphane amount was 2.45 μmol / g. Eyeball estimates of the below Figure 3 control (raw broccoli florets) are a sulforaphane amount of .2 μmol / g and a glucoraphanin amount of 2.2 μmol / g. I assume that the broccoli florets and sprouts glucoraphanin-to-sulforaphane conversions would be the same. A roughly 1-to-1 glucoraphanin-to-sulforaphane conversion of ~2.2 μmol / g + a sulforaphane amount of ~.2 μmol / g is ~2.4 μmol / g of sulforaphane. Note the Figure 3 detrimental effects that continuing cooking for a few more seconds to HL70 (70°C), had on its sulforaphane contents, dropping it below even the control (raw) content!
    4. The estimated sulforaphane amount would be 96 μmol (27 from item 2 + 69 from item 3). This would be a 17 mg weight of sulforaphane (96 / 5.64) [6]. This dosage is comparable to a 2017 clinical pilot study [7] and seven other completed clinical trial dosages of 100 μmol (17.3 mg) listed in [8].
    5. I’ve been sitting around a lot since returning from Milano, Italy, on February 24, 2020, and probably weigh around 75 kg. The estimated dosage represents 96 μmol / 75 kg = 1.28 μmol / kg, which is comparable to the 1.36 μmol / kg average of [1]. (The study provided the subjects’ mean weight in Table 1 as “85.8 ± 16.7 kg.” The average dosage per kg body weight was 117 μmol / 85.8 kg = 1.36 μmol / kg.)
    6. Don’t have a practical estimate of the amount of sulforaphane I metabolize from post-microwave glucoraphanin. Both [7] and [8] cited a 2012 study that found: “Some conversion of GRN to SFN can occur in response to metabolism by the gut microflora; however, the response is inefficient, having been shown to vary ‘from about 1% to more than 40% of the dose.’”
    7. Don’t have a practical estimate of the “internal dose.” [8]

I don’t have a laboratory in my kitchen 🙂 and won’t have quantified results.


References in order of citation:

[1] 2018 Effects of long-term consumption of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory markers in overweight subjects

[2] 2017 You Need Sulforaphane – How and Why to Grow Broccoli Sprouts

[3] 2020 Microwave cooking increases sulforaphane level in broccoli curated in Microwave broccoli to increase sulforaphane levels

fsn31493-fig-0003-m

[4] 2016 Dr. Vlassara’s AGE-Less Diet: How a Chemical in the Foods We Eat Promotes Disease, Obesity, and Aging and the Steps We Can Take to Stop It

[5] 2016 Effect of Broccoli Sprouts and Live Attenuated Influenza Virus on Peripheral Blood Natural Killer Cells: A Randomized, Double-Blind Study

[6] 2020 https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/sulforaphane lists sulforaphane’s molecular weight as 177.3 g / mol. A 1 mg weight of sulforaphane equals a 5.64 μmol sulforaphane amount (.001 / 177.3).

[7] 2019 Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease

[8] 2019 Broccoli or Sulforaphane: Is It the Source or Dose That Matters?

How much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people?

This post compares and contrasts two perspectives on how much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people. One perspective was an October 2019 review from John Hopkins researchers who specialize in sulforaphane clinical trials:

Broccoli or Sulforaphane: Is It the Source or Dose That Matters?

Since these researchers didn’t give a consumer-practical answer, I’ve presented a concurrent commercial perspective to the same body of evidence via an October 2019 review from the Australian founder of a company that offers sulforaphane products:

Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease


1. Taste from the clinical trial perspective:

“The harsh taste (a.k.a. back-of-the-throat burning sensation) that is noticed by most people who consume higher doses of sulforaphane, must be acknowledged and anticipated by investigators. This is particularly so at the higher limits of dosing with sulforaphane, and not so much of a concern when dosing with glucoraphanin, or even with glucoraphanin-plus-myrosinase.

The presence and/or enzymatic production of levels of sulforaphane in oral doses ranging above about 100 µmol, creates a burning taste that most consumers notice in the back of their throats rather than on the tongue. Higher doses of sulforaphane lead to an increased number of adverse event reports, primarily nausea, heartburn, or other gastrointestinal discomfort.”

Taste wasn’t mentioned in the commercial review. Adverse effects were mentioned in this context:

“Because SFN is derived from a commonly consumed vegetable, it is generally considered to lack adverse effects; the safety of broccoli sprouts has been confirmed. However, the use of a phytochemical in chemoprevention engages very different biochemical processes when using the same molecule in chemotherapy; the biochemical behaviour of cancer cells and normal cells is very different.”

2. Commercial products from the clinical trial perspective:

“Using a dietary supplement formulation of glucoraphanin plus myrosinase (Avmacol®) in tablet form, we observed a median 20% bioavailability with greatly dampened inter-individual variability. Fahey et al. have observed approximately 35% bioavailability with this supplement in a different population.”

Avmacol appeared to be the John Hopkins product of choice, as it was mentioned 15 times in the clinical trials table. Other products were downgraded with statements such as:

“5 or 10 g/d of BroccoPhane powder (BSP), reported to be rich in SF, daily x 4 wks (we have assayed previously and found this not to be the case).”

They also disclaimed:

“We have indicated clinical studies in which label results have been used rather than making dose measurements prior to or during intervention.”

No commercial products, not even the author’s own company’s, were directly mentioned in the commercial perspective.

3. Dosage from the clinical trial perspective:

“Reporting of administered dose of glucoraphanin and/or sulforaphane is a poor measure of the bioavailable / bioactive dose of sulforaphane. As a consequence, we propose that the excreted amount of sulforaphane metabolites (sulforaphane + sulforaphane cysteine-glycine + sulforaphane cysteine + sulforaphane N-acetylcysteine) in urine over 24 h (2–3 half-lives), which is a measure of “internal dose”, provides a more revealing and likely consistent view of the delivery of sulforaphane to study participants.

Only recently have there been attempts to define minimally effective doses in humans – an outcome made possible by the development of consistently formulated, stable, bioavailable broccoli-derived preparations.”

Dosage from the commercial perspective:

“Of the available SFN clinical trials associated with genes induced via Nrf2 activation, many demonstrate a linear dose-response. More recently, it has become apparent that SFN can behave hormetically with different effects responsive to different doses. This is in addition to its varying effects on different cell types and consequent to widely varying intracellular concentrations.

A 2017 clinical pilot study examined the effect of an oral dose of 100 μmol (17.3 mg) encapsulated SFN on GSH [the endogenous antioxidant glutathione] induction in humans over 7 days. Pre- and postmeasurement of GSH in blood cells that included T cells, B cells, and NK cells showed an increase of 32%. The researchers found that in the pilot group of nine participants, age, sex, and race did not influence the outcome.

Clinical outcomes are achievable in conditions such as asthma with daily SFN doses of around 18 mg daily and from 27 to 40 mg in type 2 diabetes. The daily SFN dose found to achieve beneficial outcomes in most of the available clinical trials is around 20-40 mg.”

The author’s sulforaphane products are available in 100, 250, and 700 mg capsules of enzyme-active broccoli sprout powder. From Eat broccoli sprouts today:

“The bioavailability of sulforaphane in a broccoli sprout extract with the myrosinase enzyme 100 μmol gelcap was 36.1% which weighed 6.4 mg.”

The author’s products convert to 36, 90, and 253 mg sulforaphane dosages. Since only the first is in the review’s recommended “20-40 mg” range, I don’t see a readily apparent conflict.

4. Let’s see how the perspectives treated a 2018 Spanish clinical trial published as Effects of long-term consumption of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory markers in overweight subjects.

From the commercial perspective:

“In a recent study using 30 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts incorporated daily into the diet, two key inflammatory cytokines were measured at four time points in forty healthy overweight [BMI 24.9 – 29.9] people. The levels of both interleukin-6 (Il-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) declined over the 70 days during which the sprouts were ingested.

These biomarkers were measured again at day 90, wherein it was found that Il-6 continued to decline, whereas CRP climbed again. When the final measurement was taken at day 160, CRP, although climbing, had not returned to its baseline value. Il-6 remained significantly below the baseline level at day 160.

The sprouts contained approximately 51 mg (117 μmol) GRN, and plasma and urinary SFN metabolites were measured to confirm that SFN had been produced when the sprouts were ingested.”


The clinical trial perspective added that the study dosage was “1.67 (GR) μmol/kg BW.” This wasn’t accurate, however. It was assumed into existence by:

“In cases where the authors did not indicate dosage in μmol/kg body weight (BW), we have made those calculations using the a priori assumption of a 70 kg BW.”

117 μmol / 1.67 μmol/kg = 70 kg.

The study provided the subjects’ mean weight in Table 1 as “85.8 ± 16.7 kg.” So the study’s actual average dosage per kg body weight was 117 μmol / 85.8 kg = 1.36 μmol/kg. Was making an accurate calculation too difficult?

The clinical trial review included the study in the informative Section “3.2. Clinical Studies with Broccoli-Based Preparations: Efficacy” subsection “3.2.8. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Related Disorders.” However, this was somewhat misleading, as it was grouped with studies such as the 2012 Iranian Effects of broccoli sprout with high sulforaphane concentration on inflammatory markers in type 2 diabetic patients: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial (not freely available).

The commercial perspective pointed out substantial differences between the two studies:

“Where the study described above by Lopez-Chillon et al. investigated healthy overweight people to assess the effects of SFN-yielding broccoli sprout homogenate on biomarkers of inflammation, Mirmiran et al. in 2012 had used a SFN-yielding supplement in T2DM patients. Although the data are not directly comparable, the latter study using the powdered supplement resulted in significant lowering of Il-6, hs-CRP, and TNF-α over just 4 weeks.

It is not possible to further compare the two studies due to the vastly different time periods over which each was conducted.”


The commercial perspective impressed as more balanced than the clinical trial perspective.

A. The commercial perspective didn’t specifically mention any commercial products. The clinical trial perspective:

– Effectively promoted one commercial product over others;

– Downgraded several other commercial products; and

– Tried to shift responsibility for the lack of “minimally effective doses in humans” to commercial products with:

“Only recently have there been attempts to define minimally effective doses in humans – an outcome made possible by the development of consistently formulated, stable, bioavailable broccoli-derived preparations.”

Unless four years previous is “recently,” using commercial products to excuse slow research progress can be dismissed. A coauthor of the clinical trial perspective was John Hopkins’ lead researcher for the November 2015 Sulforaphane Bioavailability from Glucoraphanin-Rich Broccoli: Control by Active Endogenous Myrosinase, which commended “high quality, commercially available broccoli supplements” per:

“We have now discontinued making BSE [broccoli sprout extract], because there are several high quality, commercially available broccoli supplements on the market.”

B. The commercial perspective didn’t address taste, which may be a consumer acceptance problem.

C. The commercial perspective provided practical dosage recommendations, reflecting their consumer orientation. These recommendations didn’t address how much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people, though.

Practical dosage recommendations are what the clinical trial perspective will eventually have do after they stop dodging their audience – which includes clinicians trying to apply clinical trial data – with unhelpful statements such as:

“Reporting of administered dose of glucoraphanin and/or sulforaphane is a poor measure of the bioavailable / bioactive dose of sulforaphane.”

How practical was their “internal dose” recommendation for non-researcher readers?


Here’s what I’m doing to answer how much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people.

I’d like to posthumously credit my high school literature teachers Dorothy Jasiecki and Martin Obrentz for this post’s compare-and-contrast approach. They both required their students to read at least two books monthly, then minimally write a 3-page, single-spaced, compare-and-contrast paper.

You can see from their linked testimonials that their approach was in a bygone era, back when some teachers considered the desired outcome of public education to be that each individual learned to think for themself. My younger brother contributed:

“I can still remember everything Mr. Obrentz ever assigned for me to read. He was the epitome of what a teacher should be.”

Eat broccoli sprouts today

This 2020 Korean letter to a journal editor cited 23 recent papers in support of sulforaphane’s positive effects, mainly in anti-cancer treatments:

“Gene expression is mediated by chromatin epigenetic changes, including DNA methylation, histone modifications, promoter-enhancer interactions, and non-coding RNA (microRNA and long non-coding RNA)-mediated regulation. Approximately 50% of all tumor suppressor genes are inactivated through epigenetic modifications, rather than by genetic mechanisms, in sporadic cancers. Accumulating evidence suggests that epigenetic modulators are important tools to improve the efficacy of disease prevention strategies.

Because sulforaphane (SFN) induces the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-antioxidant response element pathway that induces the cellular defense against oxidative stress, SFN has received increased attention because it acts as an antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer agent.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7068201/ “A recent overview on sulforaphane as a dietary epigenetic modulator”


Letters to the editor aren’t peer-reviewed, though. One of the cited papers was a 2018 Czech mini-review that included metabolism, preparation and processing evidence:

“Sulforaphane is a phytochemical that occurs in plants in the form of biological inactive precursor glucoraphanin. This precursor belongs to the group of phytochemicals – glucosinolates – that are rapidly converted to the appropriate isothiocyanate by the enzyme called myrosinase.

The process of transformation takes place after a disruption of plant tissues by biting, chewing, slicing, and other destruction of tissues, when the enzyme myrosinase is released from plant tissues. When the enzyme myrosinase is destroyed during meal preparation (during cooking, steam cooking, or microwave treatment), a likely source of isothiocyanates is the microbial degradation of glucosinolates by the intestinal microflora. However, the hydrolysis by the microflora has been reported to be not very efficient, and in humans it is very diverse and variable.

Content of glucoraphanin in extract from broccoli sprouts was 16.6 μmol per gram of fresh weight. In contrast, mature broccoli extract contained 1.08 μmol per gram of fresh weight. The total amount of glucosinolates in the young broccoli sprouts is 22.7 μmol per gram of fresh weight and 3.37 μmol per gram of fresh weight for mature broccoli.

Percentage amount of sulforaphane formed from its precursor glucoraphanin in broccoli which had not been heat treated and had been lyophilized [freeze-dried] was 22.8%. Broccoli steaming (5 min) and its lyophilization decrease the amount of sulforaphane formed to 4.2%.”

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/jmf.2018.0024 “Isothiocyanate from Broccoli, Sulforaphane, and Its Properties (not freely available)


Information about 43 completed sulforaphane clinical trials is here. Among them, the 2014 Effect of Broccoli Sprouts on Nasal Response to Live Attenuated Influenza Virus in Smokers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Study was of particular interest, stating:

“Nutritional interventions aimed at boosting antioxidants may be most effective in individuals who are relatively antioxidant-deficient at baseline, a condition likely to be more prevalent in smokers.”

I didn’t notice regular supplement dosage studies. Maybe I didn’t read the control group information carefully enough?


For those who don’t want to tend a broccoli sprout garden, a 1 mg sulforaphane broccoli sprout extract capsule is available for $.20/day. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/sulforaphane lists sulforaphane’s molecular weight as 177.3 g/mol. A 1 mg sulforaphane capsule weight equals a 5.64 μmol sulforaphane amount (.001 / 177.3).

From the 2015 Sulforaphane Bioavailability from Glucoraphanin-Rich Broccoli: Control by Active Endogenous Myrosinase:

  • Figure 4 showed the bioavailability of sulforaphane in a broccoli sprout extract with the myrosinase enzyme 100 μmol gelcap was 36.1% which weighed 6.4 mg (36.1 / 5.64).
  • Figure 3 showed that the bioavailability of sulforaphane in freeze-dried broccoli sprouts in pineapple-lime juice was 40.5% in 50, 100, and 200 μmol amounts and 33.8% with 100 μmol gel caps. You do the weight math.
  • Figure 2 showed that if the broccoli sprout extract didn’t have the enzyme, the bioavailability of sulforaphane was 10.4% whether the amount was 69 or 230 μmol, weighing 1.27 mg (69 x .104) / 5.64 and 4.24 mg (230 x .104) / 5.64.

It makes sense to add broccoli sprouts to a sulforaphane capsule to potentially increase bioavailability from the worst case of Figure 2’s 10.4% to the best case of Figure 4’s 36.1%. Eating sprouts at least increases the sulforaphane consumed. But the question of how much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people remains unanswered.


Aging as a disease

This 2020 interview was with UC Berkeley researchers:

“Lack of cure goes hand in hand with inability to accept that this [aging] is disease. For example, there was some resistance to accept tuberculosis as the actual disease. When there was no antibiotics or cure against it, people tended to discard it and said, oh, it’s just nerves, you need to go to a sanatorium and relax.

It used to be that, please do not diagnose that there’s bacterial meningitis, because there is no cure. Whatever else you can come up with, do it first. Now, diagnose it as fast as possible, so we can put patients on antibiotics immediately. My prediction is that the same will happen to aging.

We and others have demonstrated that you can, from the outside, either by some signal or blood therapy, parabiosis, something like that, some intervention, jump-start the aged resident stem cells in the tissue and get them to behave as, by whatever means you’re measuring it, young or a lot closer to young than they would normally be. The intrinsic capacity of them to act that way is there.

As we grow old, the environment of differentiated niche stem cells does not provide productive instruction. It provides counterproductive instruction, which, overall, tells them just to remain quiescent and do nothing.

It’s not a program to kill you. It’s the lack of a program to keep you young and healthy for longer than 90 years.

If your program was that whenever you’re a damaged, differentiated cell, you simply trigger apoptosis and activate stem cells to make new cells, we would live much longer and healthy. The program right now is to resist being dead and replaced as much as you can for as long as you can.

So cells produce too much TGF beta [transforming growth factor-β] because it helps them to keep functioning even when they’re damaged. That too much TGF beta, ironically, inhibits resident stem cells, so they are not replacing old cells with new ones. It’s almost like you have old bureaucrats that are running an organization and do not want to be replaced.

Our thoughts are probably different from most people, because we go to the data and the data show that they’re not really fully what authors wrote in the abstract or conclusion. When you look at that, my thought is that much more work needs to be done before it [partial cellular reprogramming] could be even thought to be commercialized.”

https://www.lifespan.io/news/apheresis-with-profs-irina-michael-conboy/ “Irina & Michael Conboy – Resetting Aged Blood to Restore Youth”


Keep in mind that although the interviewers’ organization had changed, their advocacy position as displayed in A blood plasma aging clock persisted. One of the interviewees is on the scientific advisory board of the interviewers’ organization, and they also have an interest in downgrading competing approaches.

Despite the caveats, this interview was these researchers’ perspective in their decades-long investigations of aging. I included the graphic and below quote from Organismal aging and cellular senescence to note how their paradigm compared with other aging researchers:

“In our view, recent evidence that

  • Senescence is based on an unterminated developmental growth program and the finding that
  • The concept of post-mitotic senescence requires the activation of expansion, or ‘growth’ factors as a second hit,

favor the assumption that aging underlies a grating of genetic determination similarly to what is summarized above under the pseudo-programmed causative approach.”

An evolutionary view of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance

This 2020 Swiss/German review mainly cited weed, worm, and yeast studies:

“RNA interference-related mechanisms can mediate the deposition and transgenerational inheritance of specific chromatin modifications in a truly epigenetic fashion.

Epigenetics was initially defined as any heritable change in gene expression patterns without changes in the DNA sequence. Now, epigenetic phenomena are often characterized as ‘gene expression changes that are mutation independent and heritable in the absence of the triggering event’, a definition we will follow in this review. We note that this definition can be expanded to include protein only-based inheritance mechanisms that do not necessarily cause changes in gene expression.

Gene silencing can persist over multiple generations in the germline of C. elegans. Gene repression is typically maintained without the initial trigger for three to seven generations and occasionally for tens of generations. In contrast, silencing of somatically expressed genes mostly affects only the subsequent generation through nonepigenetic parental effects.

In the presence of an ‘enabling’ mutation, primary siRNAs [small interfering RNAs] can trigger an RNAe [RNA-induced epigenetic silencing] response. Secondary siRNA amplification is required for transgenerational inheritance.

The fitness of a population in a dynamic environment strongly depends on the ability of individuals to adapt to the new condition as well as to remember, inherit, and forget such adaptation:

  • (A) A well-adapted population (grey) is at its maximal density (dotted line) in a given niche until an environmental change (1st stress) creates a bottleneck. Only few individuals can adapt through mutations and repopulate the niche. After the environment changes back to the initial blue state, only individuals that acquire rare counteracting mutations survive, often leading to extinction of the population.
  • (B) Individuals of a population in the red state can gain beneficial epimutations through siRNAs and repopulate the niche. When exposed again to the blue state, the epimutations can be quickly reversed and the population rapidly reaches maximal density. After recurrence of the red state, organisms establish de novo epimutations with the same low frequency as when they first encountered this state.
  • (C) In contrast, organisms that can maintain the memory of a beneficial silencing event can quickly re-establish beneficial epimutations and grow to full density. Such memory can be maintained by phenotypically neutral epimutations, marked by the continuously high production of siRNAs without substantial reductions in the expression of a gene. A population that can adapt through phenotypically plastic epimutations is predicted to have a maximal fitness advantage in a dynamic environment.”

The Concluding Remarks section included:

“RNA-mediated epigenetic responses could contribute to adaptation.

Even though RNAe may yield significant adaptive advantages, a high induction frequency could cause silencing of multiple essential genes and therefore be detrimental. Hence, it is plausible that mechanisms would have coevolved that counteract silencing.

Similarly, if constituting a bet-hedging strategy to cope with ever-changing environments, permanent fixation of an acquired silencing response would not constitute a selective advantage and mechanisms that modify and limit the duration of RNAe would be predicted.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168952519302598 “Small RNAs in the Transgenerational Inheritance of Epigenetic Information”


The review’s arguments were based on evolutionary selective advantages and less-complex organisms. It predicted that there would be an endpoint generation as in the (A) case of the above graphic.

Were the mechanisms in the (B) case necessarily transgenerational throughout? The review further explained:

“Epimutations tend to occur in hot spots (e.g., in stress-related or nutritional pathway genes) and can potentially silence several homologous genes simultaneously. Incomplete penetrance of a beneficial epimutation by stochastic loss of siRNAs [59] can result in loss of adaptation in a given environment (red state), but can be beneficial if the previous blue state is re-established. However, when the environment changes back to the red state, epimutations must initiate de novo, at the same low frequency as when the population first encountered this state.”

The study cited at 59 found:

“A feedback between siRNAs and RNAi genes determines heritable silencing duration”

but not “Incomplete penetrance of a beneficial epimutation by stochastic loss of siRNAs.” Hmm.

In any event, the review stated:

“Evidence for naturally occurring RNAe-related phenomena in other animals is scarce and we should be cautious about inferring RNAe as a widely conserved phenomenon.”

It’s encouraging to read studies that find benefits to epigenetic transgenerational inheritance, albeit in organisms that are less complex than rodents and humans.

 

The epigenetics of perinatal stress

This 2019 McGill review discussed long-lasting effects of perinatal stress:

“Epigenetic processes are involved in embedding the impact of early-life experience in the genome and mediating between social environments and later behavioral phenotypes. Since these phenotypes are apparent a long time after the early experience, the changes in gene expression programming must be stable.

Although loss of methylation in a promoter is necessary for expression, it is not sufficient. Demethylation removes a barrier for expression, but expression might be realized at the right time or context when the needed factors or signals are present.

DNA methylation anticipates future transcriptional response to triggers. Comparing steady-state expression with DNA methylation does not capture the full meaning and scope of the regulatory roles of differential methylation.

A model for epigenetic programming by early life stress:

  1. Perinatal stress perceived by the brain triggers release of glucocorticoids (GC) from the adrenal in the mother prenatally or the newborn postnatally.
  2. GC activate nuclear glucocorticoid receptors across the body, which epigenetically program (demethylate) genes that are targets of GR in brain and white blood cells (WBC).
  3. The demethylation events are insufficient for activation of these genes. A brain specific factor (TF) is required for expression and will activate low expression of the gene in the brain but not in blood.
  4. During adulthood a stressful event transiently triggers a very high level of expression of the GR regulated gene specifically in the brain.

Horizontal arrow, transcription; circles, CpG sites; CH3 in circles, methylated sites; empty circles, unmethylated CpG sites; horizon[t]al curved lines, mRNA.”

Points discussed in the review:

  • “Epigenetic marks are laid down and maintained by enzymes that either add or remove epigenetic modifications and are therefore potentially reversible in contrast to genetic changes.
  • The response to early life stress and maternal behavior is also not limited to the brain and involves at least the immune system as well.
  • The placenta is also impacted by maternal social experience and early life stress.
  • Most studies are limited to peripheral tissues such as saliva and white blood cells, and the relevance to brain physiology and pathology is uncertain.
  • The low absolute differences in methylation seen in most human behavioral EWAS raise questions about their biological significance.

  • Although post-mortem studies examine epigenetic programming in physiologically relevant tissues, they represent only a final and single stage that does not capture the dynamic evolution of environments and epigenetic programming in living humans.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6952743/ “The epigenetics of perinatal stress”


Other reviewers try to ignore the times when we were all fetuses and newborns. For example, in the same journal issue was a Boston review of PTSD that didn’t mention anything about the earliest times of human lives! Those reviewers speculated around this obvious gap on their way to being paid by NIH.

Why would researchers ignore perinatal stress events that prime humans for later-life PTSD? Stress generally has a greater impact on fetuses and newborns than even infants, and a greater impact on infants than adults.

Masters of manipulating their host

This 2020 French review subject was parasitical influences on host epigenetic processes:

“Parasites have become masters of manipulating their host cells, exploiting signaling, and metabolic pathways to hijack host gene expression to their own advantage. These intracellular parasites have developed a wide range of strategies that affect transcriptional machineries and epigenetic events in the host cell nucleus.

Parasite effectors regulate host transcription. Secretion of numerous parasite effector proteins are key processes during parasite infection. Parasite effectors deregulate host expression profile which lead to host cell transformation, or escape from the host immune system to allow parasite persistence and survival.”

parasites
The first two of the six strategies discussed are shown above:

  1. “Induction of a host epigenetic enzyme. Parasite infection leads to upregulation of SMYD3, a methyltransferase that activates genes involved in host transformation, through H3K4 trimethylation.
  2. Secreting effector proteins that drive epigenetic repression of host genes. TEEGR activates a host chromatin modifier able to repress transcription of immune system genes through H3K27 trimethylation.”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00281-020-00779-z “The clever strategies used by intracellular parasites to hijack host gene expression” (not freely available)


I used a “parasites” paradigm while living in the Washington DC area for three decades to help understand what goes on there. Moved away several years ago, but haven’t changed my thinking that all six of this paper’s parasite strategies had analogous human actions.

Other curated papers that explored the review’s topic include: