Conrad Waddington pioneered the term Epigenetics in the early 1940s [ref. 1]. He described this as ‘the branch of biology which studies the causal interactions between genes and their products which bring the phenotype into being’ [ref. 2]. Nowadays, epigenetics is described as ‘the study of changes in gene function that are mitotically and/or meiotically heritable and that do not entail a change in DNA sequence’ [ref. 3]. In a broader sense: It refers to all heritable alterations in gene expression and chromatin structure due to biochemical modifications that do not change the primary gene nucleotide sequence [ref. 4]. The main mechanisms of epigenetics include DNA methylation, histone post-translational modifications (hPTMs) and variants, chromatin remodeling and non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). Several environmental and lifestyle factors influence these epigenetic modications, such as diet, the microbiome, physical activity and pollutants or toxins [ref. 5-7].
Epigenetic modification: DNA methylations
The most common epigenetic modifications are DNA methylations: A methyl group is added to the DNA-molecule by a specific enzyme, DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs). This modulation is, among other things, essential for regulating tissue-specific gene expression, genomic imprinting and X-chromosome inactivation. It is known that the brain contains some of the highest levels of DNA methylation of any tissue of the body [ref. 8]. This is a critical regulatory mechanism implicated in development, learning, memory and disease in the human brain [ref. 9]. Some biomolecules can have an effect on epigenetic regulation, such as peptides. They can block DNA methylation and regulate gene expression. In addition, peptides entering the body by digestion of food-related proteins can modulate DNA methylation and/or histone acetylation. Therefore, the development of therapeutic peptides is an interesting approach for the treatment of diseases with a strong epigenetic basis, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease [ref. 10].
Bio-Connect connects you with epigenetics research products
Working in the field of Epigenetics? Bio-Connect offers many different products in the epigenetics research area such as:
- DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs);
- Histone deacetylases (HDACs);
- Histones and modified histones;
- Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP);
- Chromatin modifiers;
- … and more.
If you have any questions or if you are looking for certain products you can contact our technical support.
1. Waddington CH. The epigenotype. Endeavour. 1942.
2. Waddington CH. Towards a Theoretical Biology. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press; 1968. The Basic Ideas of Biology.
3. Wu Ct, Morris JR. Genes, genetics, and epigenetics: a correspondence. Science. 2001.
4. Nightingale KP, O’Neill LP, Turner BM. Histone modifications: signalling receptors and potential elements of a heritable epigenetic code. Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2006.
5. Hullar MA, Fu BC. Diet, the gut microbiome, and epigenetics. Cancer J. 2014.
6. Qin Y, Wade PA. Crosstalk between the microbiome and epigenome: messages from bugs. J Biochem. 2018.
7. Abdul QA, Yu BP, Chung HY, Jung HA, Choi JS. Epigenetic modifications of gene expression by lifestyle and environment. Arch Pharm Res. 2017.
8. Moore LD, Le T, Fan G. Dna methylation and its basic function. Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013.
9. Jeong H, Mendizabal I, Berto S, et al. Evolution of DNA methylation in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2021.
10. Janssens Y, Wynendaele E, Vanden Berghe W, De Spiegeleer B. Peptides as epigenetic modulators: therapeutic implications. Clin Epigenetics. 2019.