Epigenetic inheritance discovered in single-celled archaea?

Bad headline, but interesting Discovery.

It never occurred to me that archaea are not known in disease processes. Something to ponder.

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Not yet. Give it time.

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An interesting quote from the article:

I would have made the opposite prediction. If the resistance disappeared after a few generations then it is most likely not a mutation. This sounds like inducible resistance which depends on gene regulation instead of gene mutation. There are examples in bacteria, such as inducible clindamycin resistance in some Gram positive species.

I don’t think there will be much application of archae epigenetics in the field of human epigenetics, but I am always happy to be proven wrong.

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Also in eukaryotes – P. falciparum displays inducible tolerance to halofuginone.

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Sounds like they haven’t ruled inducibility out? Then we have no idea if this is epigenetics unless we want to deem all forms of gene regulation “epigenetics.” What a mess.

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It does become a philosophical question, and things get a bit messy with single celled organisms. If a biomolecule persists in the cytoplasm then it can hang around for several generations as the bacteria divide, only losing their effect through dilution. There are also mechanisms like sigma factors and biofilm formation that can influence gene expression between bacteria, even across species boundaries.

What does the concept of epigenetics mean in this context? Difficult to say. For better or worse, microbiologists are just as susceptible to falling in love with buzzwords and fads (e.g. metabolomics) as other fields, and epigenetics may be one of those love affairs. I think it would probably be most useful to just jettison the term and describe exactly what is going on. Even in complex eukaryotes I don’t think it is helpful to plop diverse and interesting mechanisms into the same epigenetics bucket. At some point, epigenetics starts sounding like woo, especially when it makes its way into the general populace.

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