Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

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© 2023 Jennifer McIntyre


Rapidly changing dietary conditions are of concern as to how they influence our genome function and overall health. Transposable elements (TEs) are genomic parasites that replicate and move throughout the genome, causing disruptions that have been associated with aging, various diseases, and cancers. To mitigate damage, cells deposit repressive epigenetic marks at TEs to reduce their movement. Interestingly, it has been found that dietary metabolites can act as substrates, cofactors, or inhibitors for the enzymes that deposit epigenetic marks. Accordingly, I hypothesize that altered diets, and thus metabolite profiles, change the silencing of TEs. By rearing flies under different dietary conditions, I discovered that a low-calorie diet led to concentration-dependent reduction or enhancement of TE silencing. The high sugar diet led to the enhancement of TE silencing, while the turmeric and ketogenic diets led to opposite effects. We also tested whether such diet-dependent epigenetic silencing of TEs can be inherited transgenerationally or developmentally. We found that developmental reversibility had diet and sex-specific impacts on TE silencing. Surprisingly, TE silencing was passed down across generations and there was a mixed parental dependency. Such observations suggest that transgenerational inheritance and dietary impacts through development are both important to diet-induced changes in TE silencing. We propose that dietary conditions could impact histone methylation processes, inducing changes to TE silencing, but we plan to further investigate the mechanistic impacts of diet on TE silencing. I am hopeful that my findings will inform the scientific community of the impact of a healthy lifestyle to prevent health complications caused by epigenetic changes.