Epigenetic inheritance plays a crucial role in many biological processes, such as gene expression in early embryo development, imprinting and the silencing of transposons. It has recently been established that epigenetic effects can be inherited from one generation to the next. Epigenetic parameters heritable disorders, and are often overlooked on the areas of livestock immunity and stress. The understanding of epigenetics is underpinning the latest cancer research and this can be translated into directed efforts to improve animal health and welfare.
Viruses infecting animal cells are thought to play central roles in shaping the epigenetic scenario of infected cells. It has become obvious that knowing the impact that viral infections have on the epigenetic control of their host cells will certainly lead to a better understanding of the interplay viruses have with animal cells. DNA viruses use host transcription factors and epigenetic regulators in such a way that they affect epigenetic control of gene expression that extends to host gene expression. At the same time, animal cells employ mechanisms controlling transcription factors and epigenetic processes, in order to eliminate viral infections. On the whole, epigenetic mechanisms are involved in most virus-cell interactions.
The importance of epigenetic regulation in neurological functions and disease, and its potential influence on clinical parameters, is only now being realized. Epigenetic profiling in neurological disease is challenging since disease varies significantly in progression, severity and penetrance, and neurological tissues cannot be easily accessed. It is therefore important to develop a wide range of informative cellular models, animal models and xenograft models of neurological disease for use in epigenetics research and biomarker evaluation.
Lifestyle and environmental factors associated with carcinogenesis also strongly affect epigenetic statuses, and thus epigenetic mechanisms may mediate environmental influences on gene expression and even diseases, resulting in a focus of investigation. Still as a possible risk factor and surrogate marker for liability to cancer, the methylation statuses seem to be ideal for the analysis and are emerging as a new scope. Epigenetic changes in comparison with genetic ones are reversible and are acquired in a gradual manner. These epigenetic features offer a huge potential for prevention strategies.
Identifying drugs that inhibit epigenetic changes are of great clinical interest. Knowledge of the specific epigenetic changes associated with these types of diseases facilitates the development of specific inhibitors, which can be used as epigenetic drugs. Major classes of epigenetic drugs currently in use, are DNA methylation inhibiting drugs, bromodomain inhibitors, histone acetyl transferase inhibitors, histone deacetylase inhibitors, protein methyltransferase inhibitors, and histone methylation inhibitors. Their role in reversing epigenetic changes and treating disease are of major interest.
While epigenetic changes are required for normal development and health, they can also be responsible for some disease states. Disrupting any of the three systems that contribute to epigenetic alterations can cause abnormal activation or silencing of genes. Such disruptions have been associated with cancer, syndromes involving chromosomal instabilities, and mental retardation. Studies based on these areas prove to be a development in the genetic research.
Epigenetics gene silencing refers to non-mutational gene inactivation that can be faithfully propagated from precursor cells to clones of daughter cells. A number of challenging questions may be resolved by additional experiments using existing technologies, but the future also holds promise for completing the descriptive phase of this research.
One of the major targets of epigenetics therapy is histones, which are subject to numerous posttranslational modifications, including acetylation, methylation, phosphorylation, and sumoylation, among others. It tends offer unique opportunities to develop new therapeutic approaches to treat and potentially cure related diseases.
Epigenomics provides the functional context of genome sequence, analogous to the functional anatomy of the human body. Much of what appear to be inconclusive genetic data for common disease could therefore become meaningful in an epigenomic context. Moreover, the combination of new epigenomic tools with conventional genetics and a new mathematical language for their interface may have as much impact on understanding human disease.
Epigenetic mechanisms have emerged as essential components of gene expression regulation during muscle development and in response to cellular stress. In the last decade, an increasing number of studies have been published characterizing changes in the epigenetic features of muscle cells and associating these modifications with differential gene expression.
Epigenetic phenomena and in particular heritable epigenetic changes or transgenerational effects, are the subject of much discussion in the current literature. These present a model of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance and explore the effect of epigenetic inheritance on the risk and recurrence risk of a complex disease.
Individual genetic background and environmental factors are intertwined to lifestyle in determining the health status of individuals. Increasing evidence shows that environmental and lifestyle factors may influence epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, histone modifications and microRNA expression. Advanced studies in the future, on these factors might provide a vast range of understanding and knowledge of epigenetics and its outcome.