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When is incomplete epigenetic resetting in germ cells favoured by natural selection?

  • Tobias Uller
  • Sinead English
  • Ido Pen
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Publication/Series: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume: 282
Issue: 1811
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Royal Society

Abstract english

Resetting of epigenetic marks, such as DNA methylation, in germ cells or early embryos is not always complete. Epigenetic states may therefore persist, decay or accumulate across generations. In spite of mounting empirical evidence for incomplete resetting, it is currently poorly understood whether it simply reflects stochastic noise or plays an adaptive role in phenotype determination. Here, we use a simple model to show that incomplete resetting can be adaptive in heterogeneous environments. Transmission of acquired epigenetic states prevents mismatched phenotypes when the environment changes infrequently relative to generation time and when maternal and environmental cues are unreliable. We discuss how these results may help to interpret the emerging data on transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in plants and animals.


  • Genetics
  • parental effects
  • epigenetic inheritance
  • epigenetic reprogramming
  • inheritance
  • transgenerational plasticity
  • adaptation


  • ISSN: 1471-2954
Tobias Uller
E-mail: tobias.uller [at]


Evolutionary ecology

+46 46 222 30 94


Sölvegatan 37, Lund


Research group

Experimental Evolution, Ecology & Behaviour


Doctoral students and postdocs

I am currently about to move to Lund from University of Oxford. For details about DPhil students and postdocs in my previous research group based at the Edward Grey Institute, please click here

Downloads & links

CV (pdf; 241 kB)