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Transitions in paternal social status predict patterns of offspring growth and metabolic transcription


Cauceglia, Joseph W. et al. (2020), Transitions in paternal social status predict patterns of offspring growth and metabolic transcription, Dryad, Dataset,


Parental effects occur when changes in the parental phenotype or environment cause changes to offspring phenotype. While some parental effects are triggered in response to an environmental cue in a time-locked fashion, other parental effects persist even after the cue has been removed, suggesting multiple timescales of action. For parental effects to serve as reliable signals of current environmental conditions, they should be reversible, such that when the cue changes, offspring phenotypes change in accordance. Social hierarchy is a prevalent feature of the environment, and current parental social status could signal the environment in which offspring will be born. Here, we sought to address parental effects of social status and their timescale of action in mice. We show that competition in seminatural environments affects offspring growth rate. Although dominant males are not heavier than nondominant or control males, they produce faster growing offspring, particularly sons. The timing, effect-size, and sex-specificity of this association are modulated by maternal social experience. We show that a change in paternal social status is sufficient to modulate offspring weight: from one breeding cycle to the next, status-ascending males produce heavier sons than before, and status-descending males produce lighter sons than before. Current paternal status is also highly predictive of liver transcription in sons, including molecular pathways controlling oxidative phosphorylation and iron metabolism. These results are consistent with a parental effect of social experience, although alternative explanations are considered. In summary, changes in paternal social status are associated with changes in offspring growth and metabolism.

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