Transgenerational epigenetic effects of the Apobec1 cytidine deaminase deficiency on testicular germ cell tumor susceptibility and embryonic viability.
Environmental agents and genetic variants can induce heritable epigenetic changes that affect phenotypic variation and disease risk in many species. These transgenerational effects challenge conventional understanding about the modes and mechanisms of inheritance, but their molecular basis is poorly understood. The Deadend1 (Dnd1) gene enhances susceptibility to testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) in mice, in part by interacting epigenetically with other TGCT modifier genes in previous generations. Sequence homology to A1cf, the RNA-binding subunit of the ApoB editing complex, raises the possibility that the function of Dnd1 is related to Apobec1 activity as a cytidine deaminase. We conducted a series of experiments with a genetically engineered deficiency of Apobec1 on the TGCT-susceptible 129/Sv inbred background to determine whether dosage of Apobec1 modifies susceptibility, either alone or in combination with Dnd1, and either in a conventional or a transgenerational manner. In the paternal germ-lineage, Apobec1 deficiency significantly increased susceptibility among heterozygous but not wild-type male offspring, without subsequent transgenerational effects, showing that increased TGCT risk resulting from partial loss of Apobec1 function is inherited in a conventional manner. By contrast, partial deficiency in the maternal germ-lineage led to suppression of TGCTs in both partially and fully deficient males and significantly reduced TGCT risk in a transgenerational manner among wild-type offspring. These heritable epigenetic changes persisted for multiple generations and were fully reversed after consecutive crosses through the alternative germ-lineage. These results suggest that Apobec1 plays a central role in controlling TGCT susceptibility in both a conventional and a transgenerational manner.