New understanding of epigenetics and consequences for environmental health and sustainability
Sagl, Veromika, Thaler, Roman, Gesche, Astrid H., & Haslberger, Alexander G. (2007) New understanding of epigenetics and consequences for environmental health and sustainability. In Zollitsch, W., Winckler, C., Waiblinger, S., & Haslberger, A. (Eds.) Sustainable food production and ethics: Preprints of the 7th Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics. EurSAFE 2007, Wageningen Academic, Vienna, Austria, pp. 376-381.
Genetic variation is controlled by two different mechanisms: genetic and epigenetic. Genetic variations are based on differences in DNA-sequences due to mutation and recombination events. Epigenetic variations, on the other hand, are not encoded through the nucleotide sequences of DNA, but rather through the chemical modification of either DNA or its associated proteins which results in certain genes being turned on or off. It appears that methylation, but also acetylation or ubiquitylation, lead to different molecular outcomes, resulting in phenomena such as the inactivation of the X-chromosome, genomic imprinting, or different types of cancer. Epigenetics will have profound effects on our understanding of human and environmental health by forcing us to look afresh on interactions between (wo)men with their natural and social environment and by adding a transgenerational, even evolutionary, aspect to the debate. These findings could strengthen emerging thoughts about sustainable and responsible care taking of our environment and consequently of our health through it.
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