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Infographic: Epigenetics - A Primer

By Stefan Kubicek Infographic: Epigenetics—A Primer There are many ways that epigenetic effects regulate the activation or repression of genes. Here are a few molecular tricks cells use to read off the right genetic program. INFOGRAPHIC: Click to view full image illustration ©2011 Tolpa Studios, Inc. What makes the ~200 cell types in our body remember their identity? What prevents them from becoming cancer cells? Why do we inherit some traits from

By | March 1, 2011

Infographic: Epigenetics—A Primer

There are many ways that epigenetic effects regulate the activation or repression of genes. Here are a few molecular tricks cells use to read off the right genetic program.

illustration ©2011 Tolpa Studios, Inc.

What makes the ~200 cell types in our body remember their identity? What prevents them from becoming cancer cells? Why do we inherit some traits from our father, others from our mother? How do our experiences and environment influence our thinking? Why do plants bloom in spring but not in winter? These important and quite different questions are all addressed by the field of epigenetics, which studies heritable changes in a phenotype arising in the absence of alterations in the DNA sequence. The idea of transgenerational inheritance of acquired characteristics goes back to Lamarck in the early 19th century, but still only correlative evidence exists in humans. In contrast, many cellular epigenetic phenomena are now well understood on the molecular level. In humans, they include the parent-of-origin specific expression of genes (imprinting) and the shutting-down of almost all genes on one of the two X chromosomes in females (X-chromosome inactivation).

All these epigenetic phenomena are characterized by chemical modifications to DNA itself (DNA methylation) or to histones, the proteins around which DNA is wound. These modifications change during development as stem cells give rise to liver cells and neurons, but also in response to environmental signals—in plants, for example, during the cold of winter or in humans when immune cells are activated after an infection. One of the biggest controversies in the field is whether histone modifications are inherited through cell division (called the “histone code hypothesis”) or whether they only form transient indicators of transcriptional states (“signaling model”).

Stefan Kubicek is at CeMM-Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna.

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Avatar of: Dov Henis

Dov Henis

Posts: 97

March 1, 2011

Science Should Adjust Its Vision, Comprehension And Concepts\n\n\nFrom "Think Again: Education" , comment "Science In A Technology-Tradeunion Culture?"\nhttp://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/22/think_again_education\n\nGenes And Genomes Are Both Organisms\n\nGenomes Are RNA-Evolved Template ORGANISMS \nEpiDNAtics Is Not Epigenetics\n\n\nFrom "Dispel Some Figments Of 2010 Science Imagination"\nhttp://pulse.yahoo.com/_2SF3CJJM5OU6T27OC4MFQSDYEU/blog/articles/245540\n\nThe "heritable or enduring changes" are epiDNAtics, not epigenetics. Alternative splicing is not epigenetics, even if/when not involving alteration of the DNA sequence. Earth life is an RNA world.\n\nIt's the RNAs that evolve proteins. AND IT'S THE RNAs THAT HAVE EVOLVED AND PRODUCE AND EMPLOY THE RNA and (stabler) DNA template genome organisms for carrying out life processes, i.e. for enhancing Earth's biosphere by proliferating RNAs, for augmenting and constraining as long as possible some energy by augmenting its, RNA's, self-propagation, constraining temporarily some of the total energy of the universe, all of which is nevertheless destined to fuel the ongoing cosmic expansion. \n\nIT HAS ALWAYS BEEN AND IT STILL IS AN RNA EARTH LIFE.\n\nScience should adjust its vision, comprehension and concepts. \n\n\nDov Henis \n(comments from 22nd century)\nSeed of Human-Chimp Genomes Diversity\nhttp://pulse.yahoo.com/_2SF3CJJM5OU6T27OC4MFQSDYEU/blog/articles/53079\n03.2010 Updated Life Manifest\nhttp://www.the-scientist.com/community/posts/list/54.page#5065
Avatar of: p hh

p hh

Posts: 1

March 17, 2011

A useful overview of epigenetic control at DNA and histone levels. But where did the horrendous graphics in the lower left come from? It shows DNA stuffed into chromosome-shaped socks as some sort of an envelope, with strands crossing at the centromere and whole metaphase chromosomes in the interphase nucleus. For me this gross inaccuracy reduces the value of the poster for teaching.

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