Understanding 'non-genetic' inheritance: insights from molecular-evolutionary crosstalk

Irene Adrian-Kalchhauser, Sonia E. Sultan, Lisa N.S. Shama, Helen Clare Spence-Jones, Stefano Tiso, Claudia Isabelle Keller Valsecchi, Franz J. Weissing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the evolutionary and ecological roles of 'non-genetic' inheritance
(NGI) is daunting due to the complexity and diversity of epigenetic mechanisms.
We draw on insights from molecular and evolutionary biology perspectives to
identify three general features of 'non-genetic' inheritance systems: (i) they are
functionally interdependent with, rather than separate from, DNA sequence; (ii)
precise mechanisms vary phylogenetically and operationally; and (iii) epigenetic
elements are probabilistic, interactive regulatory factors and not deterministic
'epialleles' with defined genomic locations and effects. We discuss each of
these features and offer recommendations for future empirical and theoretical
research that implements a unifying inherited gene regulation (IGR) approach
to studies of 'non-genetic' inheritance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1078-1089
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Ecology & Evolution
Issue number12
Early online date6 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Epigenetics
  • Extended inheritance
  • Epiallelic variation
  • Theoretical models
  • Transgenerational effects
  • Inherited gene regulation


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