This paper in Nature 2008, vol 454 7th August p 711-2 is an easy read account of epigenomics, the physiology of molecular biology
Epigenomes, is all the epigenetic marks in a given cell type. Epigenetic processes are essential for packaging and interpreting the genome, are fundamental to normal develop¬ment and are increasingly recognized as being involved in human disease. Epigenetic mechanisms include, among other things, histone modification, positioning of histone variants, nucleosome remodelling, DNA methylation, small and non-coding RNAs. These mechanisms interact with transcription factors and other DNA-binding proteins to regulate gene-expression patterns inherited from cell to cell. The patterns underlie embryonic development, differentiation and cell identity, transitions from a stem cell to a committed cell and responses to environmental signals such as hormones, nutrients, stress and damage.
Although epigenomic changes are heritable in somatic cells, drug treatments and presumably nutrients could potentially reverse them. This has significant implications for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of major human diseases and for ageing.
- Martin Eastwood