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Life experiences put their stamp on the next generation: New insights from epigenetics
Date:2/14/2013

hylation of DNA or of specific residues on histone "supporter" proteins, influence the extent to which individual genes are converted into messenger RNA. These changes can occur in any cell of the body, but when they occur in the germ cells (sperm or eggs) the changes may be passed to the next generation.

The changes in DNA structure are random events that acquire functional significance in the context of Darwin's "natural selection" process. In contrast, the epigenetic reactions to specific environments are designed to enable that organism to cope with that context. When these traits are passed to the next generation, it is as if the newborn arrives prepared for that specific environment. Problems arise when the epigenetic processes give rise to traits that are not adaptive for the offspring, such as heightened stress reactivity, or when the environment has changed.

"This is a remarkable story with far-reaching implications," commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "There is a suspicion that epigenetic processes may be reversed more easily than genetic traits, exemplified by the development of HDAC inhibitors. This is a rapidly evolving research area that has captured a great deal of attention."


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Contact: Rhiannon Bugno
Biol.Psych@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-0880
Elsevier
Source:Eurekalert

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