Epigenetic modifications regulate gene expression for development, immune response, disease, and other processes. A major role of epigenetics is to control the dynamics of chromatin structure, i.e., the condensed packaging of DNA around histone proteins in eukaryotic nuclei. Key epigenetic factors include enzymes for histone modifications and DNA methylation, non-coding RNAs, and prions. Epigenetic modifications are heritable but during embryonic development, most parental epigenetic marks are erased and reset. Interestingly, some epigenetic modifications, that may be resulting from immune response to stimuli, can escape remodeling and transmit to subsequent generations who are not exposed to those stimuli. This phenomenon is called transgenerational epigenetic inheritance if the epigenetic phenotype persists beyond the third generation in female germlines and second generation in male germlines. Although its primary function is likely immune response for survival, its role in the development and functioning of the immune system is not extensively explored, despite studies reporting transgenerational inheritance of stress-induced epigenetic modifications resulting in immune disorders. Hence, this review draws from studies on transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, immune system development and function, high-throughput epigenetics tools to study those phenomena, and relevant clinical trials, to focus on their significance and deeper understanding for future research, therapeutic developments, and various applications.
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