A new study conducted by researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine has found that some traits of the parents, such as stress levels, are often passed on to their female offspring and not male offspring.
Adolescent mice exposed to chronic social stress, where their cage composition is constantly changing, exhibit anxiety and poor social interactions through adulthood.
"These changes were especially prominent in female mice," said Lorena Saavedra-Rodriguez, postdoctoral fellow at the Larry Feig lab at Tufts University School of Medicine and study co-author.
Researchers then studied the offspring of these stressed mice and observed that again female, but not male, offspring exhibited elevated anxiety and poor social interactions, the journal Biological Psychiatry reports
Notably, even though the stressed males did not express any of these altered behaviours, they passed on these behaviours to their female offspring after being mated to non-stressed females.
Moreover, the male offspring passed on these behaviours to yet another generation of female offspring, according to a Tufts statement.
"We are presently searching for biochemical changes in the sperm of stressed fathers that could account for this newly appreciated form of inheritance," said senior study author Larry A. Feig, professor of biochemistry at Tufts School of Medicine.
"Hopefully, this work will stimulate efforts to determine whether similar phenomena occur in humans," he said.