Scientists from the United States have found a mechanism for transferring memory from one organism to another. Moreover, it persists for several generations.
The researchers noted that when the body is faced with a threat in its environment, it benefits from alerting others to the danger. For example, the roundworm C. elegans constantly encounters the pathogenic bacteria P. aeruginosa (Pseudomonas aeruginosa), but if they are eaten, the worms develop dangerous diseases. Now researchers at Princeton Lab have found a hazard warning mechanism that keeps worms from being threatened.
The lab first realized that worms infected by P. aeruginosa learn to avoid bacteria, and they can pass this behavior on to their offspring for up to four next generations. Maternal worms that eat P. aeruginosa consume bacterial small RNA, which triggers a signal in the worm’s germline reproductive cells. It is then transmitted to a neuron that controls behavior. After that, the signal of danger is preserved in the offspring through changes made to the cells of the germ line.
“We found that a single worm can teach you how to avoid a pathogenic bacterium, and it will be remembered for many years. Their behavior does not change, even if we grind the worm, change its environment and make any other changes.”
Murphy Lab press release
This study suggested that worms emit a signal that changes the behavior of other worms. In doing so, the scientists were able to find that the signal triggers the same learning in the recipient worms as in the worms exposed to the pathogen.
Other researchers have already shown that the sea slug Aplysia is capable of transferring memories between individuals. But the new work of scientists allows you to see the specific mechanism of such a signal. Next, the researchers want to study this process in more detail and are working to present it to the scientific community in as much detail as possible.