Epigenetic modelling

Perrin, Dimitri, Ruskin, Heather J, Crane, Martin, & Walshe, Ray (2008) Epigenetic modelling. ERCIM News, 72, p. 46.

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The field of epigenetics looks at changes in the chromosomal structure that affect gene expression without altering DNA sequence. A large-scale modelling project to better understand these mechanisms is gaining momentum.

Early advances in genetics led to the all-genetic paradigm: phenotype (an organism's characteristics/behaviour) is determined by genotype (its genetic make-up). This was later amended and expressed by the well-known formula P = G + E, encompassing the notion that the visible characteristics of a living organism (the phenotype, P) is a combination of hereditary genetic factors (the genotype, G) and environmental factors (E). However, this method fails to explain why in diseases such as schizophrenia we still observe differences between identical twins. Furthermore, the identification of environmental factors (such as smoking and air quality for lung cancer) is relatively rare. The formula also fails to explain cell differentiation from a single fertilized cell.

In the wake of early work by Waddington, more recent results have emphasized that the expression of the genotype can be altered without any change in the DNA sequence. This phenomenon has been tagged as epigenetics. To form the chromosome, DNA strands roll over nucleosomes, which are a cluster of nine proteins (histones), as detailed in Figure 1. Epigenetic mechanisms involve inherited alterations in these two structures, eg through attachment of a functional group to the amino acids (methyl, acetyl and phosphate). These 'stable alterations' arise during development and cell proliferation and persist through cell division. While information within the genetic material is not changed, instructions for its assembly and interpretation may be. Modelling this new paradigm, P = G + E + EpiG, is the object of our study.

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ID Code: 82662
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: No
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: The authors
Deposited On: 24 Mar 2015 03:42
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2015 04:58

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