A user's guide to the ambiguous word 'epigenetics'

The term 'epigenetics' is currently ambiguous, over-encompassing and uncoupled from its historical roots. This reflects interests and insights that have developed over time. In this Comment, I propose that we stop using the word in isolation, and be explicit about which definition we are using to avoid ambiguity in its scientific and public use.

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    Epigenetics: The origins and evolution of a fashionable topic. Dev. Biol. 416, 249–254 (2016).

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    & Associating cellular epigenetic models with human phenotypes. Nat. Rev. Genet. 18, 441–451 (2017).

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    & Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: myths and mechanisms. Cell 157, 95–109 (2014).

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Author information


  1. Center for Epigenomics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1301 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.

    • John M. Greally


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Competing interests

The author declares no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to John M. Greally.