Brona McVittie reports :: May 2006

Most of us have happily accepted that our characteristics are entirely specified by our genes (DNA). However, recent evidence provided by Minoo Rassoulzadegan (University of Nice, France) prompts a reality check. Her research team showed that RNA can mask the normal effects of a gene, so that a mutant phenotype (spotty tail) may be inherited without the mutant (Kit) gene. A male mouse with a normal Kit and a mutant Kit can harbour RNA from the mutant gene in sperm which have a normal Kit gene. So even if his offspring get his normal Kit gene and a normal Kit from their mother, they can still develop spotty tails. This poses some interesting questions about genetic and epigenetic inheritance.

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Original publication: Nature