Epigenetics: Immunization is passed on to offspring

October 18, 2021

Infection of male mice increases the resistence of offspring to infection (picture: Nature Immunology / Katzmarski et. al.)


Adaptations to infection shown to be passed on over several generations in mice

Does an infection affect the immunity of subsequent generations? Prof. Andeas Schlitzer, member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation2 and the Life & Medical Sciences Institute (LIMES) at the University of Bonn, Prof. Dr. Mihai G. Netea from Radboud University (Netherlands), together with researchers from Saarland University, Lausanne (Switzerland) and Athens (Greece), have investigated this. Mouse sires that either had previously overcome infection with fungi or were stimulated with fungal substances, passed on their improved protection over several generations. The team simultaneously demonstrated an improved immune response that was passed on to the offspring. The study has now been published in Nature Immunology. 

The scientists infected male mice with thrush fungi (Candida albicans). After surviving the infection, the animals were mated with completely healthy females. The researchers compared the resulting children with offspring from pairs of mice that had not previously been infected with Candida. To experimentally examine the status of the immune system, the team infected the males of the subsequent generation of mice with coliform bacteria. The offspring of the male mice previously exposed to Candida were found to be significantly better protected from subsequent E. coli infection than the offspring of the uninfected male mice. This effect was still evident in the next generation.


Natalie Katzmarski, Jorge Domínguez-Andrés, Branko Cirovic, Georgios Renieris, Eleonora Ciarlo, Didier Le Roy, Konstantin Lepikhov, Kathrin Kattler, Gilles Gasparoni, Kristian Händler, Heidi Theis, Marc Beyer, Jos W. M. van der Meer, Leo A. B. Joosten, Jörn Walter, Joachim L. Schultze, Thierry Roger, Evangelos J. Giamarellos-Bourboulis, Andreas Schlitzer, Mihai G. Netea: Transmission of trained immunity and heterologous resistance to infections across generations, Nature Immunology, DOI: 10.1038/s41590-021-01052-7.


Prof. Dr. Andreas Schlitzer
Quantitative Systembiologie
LIMES-Institut (Life and Medical Sciences Bonn)
Universität Bonn
Tel. +49 2287362847
E-Mail: andreas.schlitzer(at)uni-bonn.de

Prof. Dr. Mihai G. Netea
Radboud university medical center und
LIMES-Institut der Universität Bonn
Tel. +31 243618819
E-Mail: Mihai.Netea(at)radboudumc.nl