-- A Society of Neuroscience presentation on Nov. 16 will
highlight University at Buffalo research on how depression is
passed along from fathers to offspring.
--A key goal of the research was to determine whether or not
epigenetics -- changes in an organism caused by something other
than changes in DNA sequence -- might play a role in inheriting
-- Preliminary findings indicate that depression in families is
passed on to the next generation primarily through behavioral
interactions between parents and offspring, not through
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One of the first studies to examine, in
animals, how depression in fathers may impact their offspring will
be presented by the study's researchers from the University at
Buffalo and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine at 10 a.m. on Nov. 16 at
the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
A key purpose of the experiments was to determine if
depressive-like behaviors in mice could be passed from one
generation to the next. The authors also attempted to examine if
epigenetics -- changes in the genome of an organism caused by
something other than changes in DNA sequences -- might play a role
in inheriting depression.
"It appears from our results that depression is passed on not
through sperm primarily but through behavioral mechanisms," says
David Dietz, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and
toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and
co-author of the study.
The researchers used a rodent model of depression, studying male
mice who had been "socially defeated" through exposure to chronic
When those males bred offspring through natural methods, their
offspring did show a susceptibility to exhibit depressive symptoms,
such as social avoidance.
However, when offspring were bred from these fathers through in
vitro fertilization (IVF) and the fathers had no direct contact
with the offspring or with the mothers, the susceptibility of the
offspring to show depressive-like symptoms was greatly reduced.
"With the offspring of the IVF experiments, you definitely lost
the very robust transmission of depression-like behaviors that we
saw in the group bred through natural methods," says Dietz.
The research was previously published in the Journal of
Biological Psychiatry by Dietz and his co-authors from the Mt.
Sinai School of Medicine and Utrecht University in the
The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.