Ann McLaren Memorial Lecture: Epigenetic inheritance – models and mechanisms Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith, Department of Genetics, University of Cambridge, UK

This talk will cover:
• In mammals, the epigenome is erased from one generation to the next.
• This makes mammalian epigenetic inheritance from the parental germline to offspring a challenging possibility.
• Examples of epigenetic inheritance in mammals are likely to be rare – two of these will be discussed.
• Repressive epigenetic modifications are targeted to particular regions of the genome – the family of KRAB zinc finger proteins (KZFPs) play a key role in this process in mammals.
• KZFPs are highly polymorphic (between and) within species leading to inter-individual epigenetic variation with the potential to influence phenotype.

Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Cambridge, since January 2021; from 2022 she will be the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and International Partnerships. She is the Arthur Balfour Professor of Genetics at the University of Cambridge, since 2015. Formally, she was the University’s Head of the Department of Genetics until December 2020. She became the President of the Genetics Society in 2021, and is a member of the UKRI BBSRC Council.

She is a mammalian developmental geneticist and epigeneticist. An expert on genomic imprinting, her team studies the epigenetic control of genome function with particular emphasis on epigenetic inheritance. Her group is made up of both experimental and computational scientists and current research focuses on three themes: (i) Stem cells and the epigenetic programme, (ii) Functional genomics and epigenomics, and (iii) the interaction between the environment and development, health & disease within and across generations.

She was elected to EMBO in 2006, to the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and the Society of Biology in 2012 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2017. In 2014 she was as awarded the Women in Science Heirloom Award for contributions to life sciences and in 2019 was awarded the Feldberg Prize. In 2021 she was awarded the Buchanan Medal by The Royal Society. She is a Fellow of Darwin College, University of Cambridge.