Cytoplasmic inheritance redux.

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2013

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Abstract

Since the early twentieth century, inheritance was seen as the inheritance of genes. Concurrent with the acceptance of the genetic theory of inheritance was the rejection of the idea that the cytoplasm of the oocyte could also play a role in inheritance and a corresponding devaluation of embryology as a discipline critical for understanding human development. Development, and variation in development, came to be viewed solely as matters of genetic inheritance and genetic variation. We now know that inheritance is a matter of both genetic and cytoplasmic inheritance. A growing awareness of the centrality of the cytoplasm in explaining both human development and phenotypic variation has been promoted by two contemporaneous developments: the continuing elaboration of the molecular mechanisms of epigenetics and the global rise of artificial reproductive technologies. I review recent developments in the ongoing elaboration of the role of the cytoplasm in human inheritance and development.

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