Epigenetics and Early Development.
Additional Document Info
The epigenome controls all aspect of eukaryotic development as the packaging of DNA greatly affects gene expression. Epigenetic changes are reversible and do not affect the DNA sequence itself but rather control levels of gene expression. As a result, the science of epigenetics focuses on the physical configuration of chromatin in the proximity of gene promoters rather than on the mechanistic effects of gene sequences on transcription and translation. In the present review we discuss three prominent epigenetic modifications, DNA methylation, histone methylation/acetylation, and the effects of chromatin remodeling complexes. Specifically, we introduce changes to the methylated state of DNA through DNA methyltransferases and DNA demethylases, discuss the effects of histone tail modifications such as histone acetylation and methylation on gene expression and present the functions of major ATPase subunit containing chromatin remodeling complexes. We also introduce examples of how changes in these epigenetic factors affect early development in humans and mice. In summary, this review provides an overview over the most important epigenetic mechanisms and provides examples of the dramatic effects of epigenetic changes in early mammalian development.