The Biological Mechanism Underlying the Intergenerational Inheritance of Fear

Yasmine Ayman*, Eliza Jaegar*, Bianca Jones Marlin*, Richard Axel* Neuroscience Department Zuckerman Institute, Columbia University 3227 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

The precise mechanism behind epigenetic regulation in the olfactory epithelium is unknown although morphological changes in response to fear conditioning have been observed. Namely, after a chosen odor (acetophenone) is presented, an increase in the specific olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) is observed in the parental generation (F0) and their offspring (F1) following a 3 day fear conditioning paradigm in which this odor is paired with a foot shock. It has been also shown that more receptors being expressed in response to an odor that is predictive of a shock may make the mice more sensitive to said odor. Here we provide evidence for the mechanism underlying these epigenetic changes by answering two key questions. Firstly, does fear conditioning extend the OSN lifespan or increase cell proliferation of the specific receptors to the conditioned odor.  Secondly, are the receptors to the conditioned odor necessary and/or sufficient for the epigenetic phenotype in F0 and F1. We use 5-ethynyl-20-deoxyuridine (EdU) to birth date OSNs at single cell resolution in the olfactory epithelium, and DREADDS (HM4Di and HM4Dq) to stimulate the OSNs in vivo in order to test the causal relations between the mature OSNs and the increase in OSN expression. Our data indicate a potential mechanism for how environmental signals are conveyed to somatic cells in sensory systems, before being transmitted to germ cells and subsequently to future generations.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Yasmine Ayman

Institution: Columbia University

Type: Poster

Subject: Biology

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 3
Date/Time: Mon 4:30pm-5:30pm
Session Number: 3086