Researchers have now found that through bacterial DNA traits such as behavior, weight, eye color, hair can pass from mother to offspring. The DNA of bacteria can pass a trait to offspring in a way similar to the parents'own DNA, the findings showed.
The researchers linked commensal bacteria in mice to the animals' susceptibility to a gut injury. Mice with certain inherited bacteria are susceptible to the injury, which is caused by exposure to a chemical.
Female mice pass the bacteria to their offspring, making them vulnerable to the injury. Others carrying different bacteria are less susceptible.
Herbert Virgin IV from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said, "This suggests we may need to substantially expand our thinking about their (bacteria') contributions, and perhaps the contributions of other microorganisms, to genetics and heredity."
This is the first study to show that bacterial DNA can pass from parent to offspring in a manner that affects specific traits such as immunity and inflammation, the researchers noted. Most bacteria are commensal, which means they do not cause harm and often confer benefits.