Epigenetic maternal effects on endogenous rhythms in precocial birds.

Chronobiology international

PubMedID: 19360486

Formanek L, Richard-Yris MA, Houdelier C, Lumineau S. Epigenetic maternal effects on endogenous rhythms in precocial birds. Chronobiol Int. 2009;26(3):396-414.
Development involves interactions between genetic and environmental influences. Vertebrate mothers are generally the first individuals to encounter and interact with young animals. Thus, their role is primordial during ontogeny. The present study evaluated non-genomic effects of mothers on the development of rhythms of precocial Japanese quail (Coturnix c. japonica). First, we investigated the influence of mothering on the ontogeny of endogenous rhythms of young. We compared circadian and ultradian rhythms of feeding activity of quail reared with or without adoptive mothers. More brooded than non-brooded quail presented a circadian and/or an ultradian rhythm. Thus, the presence of the mother during the normal brooding period favors, in the long term, expression of rhythms in the young. Second, we investigated the influence of rhythmic phenotype of the mother on the development of endogenous rhythms of young by comparing quail brooded by circadian-rhythmic adoptive mothers (R) to quail brooded by circadian-arrhythmic adoptive mothers (A). More R-brooded than A-brooded quail expressed circadian rhythmicity, and circadian rhythm clarities were greater in R-brooded than A-brooded quail. Ultradian rhythmicity did not differ between R- and A-brooded quail, nor between R and A adoptive mothers. Thus, the rhythmic phenotypes of quail mothers influence the rhythmic phenotypes of their young. Our results demonstrate that mothers of precocial birds influence epigenetically the ontogeny of endogenous rhythms of the young they raise.