Since Weismann proposed the germplasm theory of inheritance in 1892, it is widely believed that genomes are inherited through germ cells without somatic influence. Thus, the naïve ideas of Lamarck have been dismissed. However, recent evidence suggests that the soma does influence inheritance. The applicants demonstrated that neuronal processes impacts small RNA-based epigenetic inheritance of acquired behavior (Cell, 2019). Moreover, the applicants discovered a somatic regulation of the DNA damage response in germ cells (Dev Cell, 2019). The latter suggests that the soma influences the inheritance of mutations. We propose to combine the roles of epigenetic and genetic consequences of acquired traits and thus fundamentally challenge the current concepts of inheritance. Specifically, we will test if the nervous system, unique in its ability to plan and calculate, can affect mutation rates and thus evolution. We will test if neuronal activity can modulate DNA repair and transposon mobilization to enforce genetic changes in germ cells. We will examine if temperature sensation by the neurons affects the observed influence of temperature over DNA damage. If we discover that the nervous system can “sculpt” the germline genome, it could have far reaching consequences.
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