Epigenetics

Definition

Epigenetics is the study of molecular processes that influence the flow of information between a constant DNA sequence and variable gene expression patterns. This includes investigation of nuclear organization, DNA methylation, histone modification and RNA transcription. Epigenetic processes can result in intergenerational (heritable) effects as well as clonal propagation of cell identity without any mutational change in DNA sequence.

Featured

Latest Research and Reviews

News and Comment

  • News and Views |

    A DNA modification—methylation of cytosines and adenines—has important roles in diverse processes such as regulation of gene expression and genome stability, yet until recently adenine methylation had been considered to be only a hallmark of prokaryotes. A new study identifies abundant adenine methylation of transcriptionally active genes in early-diverging fungi that, together with recent other work, emphasizes the importance of adenine methylation in eukaryotes.

    • Michael F Seidl
    Nature Genetics 49, 823–824
  • News and Views |

    As cells undergo terminal differentiation, the composition of Polycomb-repressive complex 2 (PRC2) changes and the histone H3K27 methyltransferase Ezh2 is progressively replaced by its homolog Ezh1. By identifying an enzymatically inactive splice variant of Ezh1 that is sensitive to cellular stress, Bodega et al. now demonstrate that PRC2–Ezh1 has an essential role in establishing an altered gene expression program required for postmitotic muscle cells to adapt to environmental changes.

    • Marjorie Brand
    •  & F Jeffrey Dilworth
  • News and Views |

    Mammalian SWI/SNF complexes have critical roles in development and differentiation, and are implicated in the pathogenesis of several diseases; however, the mechanisms underpinning disease manifestation and the specificity of the subunits mutated are incompletely understood. Newly identified loss-of-function mutations in the SMARCD2 gene (part of the SMARCD1, SMARCD2 and SMARCD3 paralog family) reveal an evolutionarily conserved role specifically for the SMARCD2 subunit in granulopoiesis, and further investigation implicates the CEBPɛ transcription factor as a key effector of this specific function.

    • Brittany C Michel
    •  & Cigall Kadoch
    Nature Genetics 49, 655–657