The largest twin study on epigenetic profiles yet reveals the extent to which lifestyle and age can impact gene expression, an international research team reports in this week's PNAS. Senior author Manel Esteller of the Spanish National Cancer Center in Madrid and colleagues found that 35% of twin pairs had significant differences in DNA methylation and histone modification profiles.

"These findings help show how environmental factors can change one's gene expression and susceptibility to disease, by affecting epigenetics," Esteller told The Scientist.

Esteller and colleagues in Sweden, Denmark, Spain, England, and the United States studied 80 sets of identical twins, ranging in age from 3 to 74 years. Their aim was to explore what role epigenetics plays in generating phenotypic differences between genetically identical twins.

The researchers analyzed the twins' global DNA methylation and histone H3 and H4 acetylation in samples from lymphocytes, buccal mucosal epithelial cells, skeletal muscle...

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