Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis (EMM) Editor’s Choice - January 2011
The Editor’s Choice article for January is “The Hunt for the Epiallele” by Sarah Finer, Michelle L. Holland, Lisa Nanty, and Vardhman K. Rakyan. This highly-informative review covers general principles of epigenetics, the etiology of epialleles, and “stochastic factors” that induce epialleles, along with the strengths of different model systems and methodologies used in epigenetic research. Finer et al. draw on research examples from plants, insects, rodents and humans, in order to define critical concepts in epigenetics and explain the classification of epialleles. Consequently, this highly-informative article will be a useful resource for those conducting epigenetics research, as well as those simply trying to stay informed regarding this interesting and rapidly evolving field.
The abstract of the article published in EMM 52:1–11, 2011 is below.
Understanding the origin of phenotypic variation remains one of the principle challenges of contemporary biology. Recent genome-wide association studies have identified association between common genetic variants and complex phenotype; however, the minimal effect sizes observed in such studies highlight the potential for other causal factors to be involved in phenotypic variation. The epigenetic state of an organism (or ‘epigenome’) incorporates a landscape of complex and plastic molecular events that may underlie the ‘missing link’ that integrates genotype with phenotype. The nature of these processes has been the subject of intense scientific study over the recent years, and characterisation of epigenetic variation, in the form of ‘epialleles’, is providing fascinating insight into how the genome functions within a range of developmental processes, environments, and in states of health and disease. This review will discuss how and when mammalian epialleles may be generated and their interaction with genetic and environmental factors. We will outline how an epiallele has a variable relationship with phenotype, and how new technologies may be used for their detection and to facilitate an understanding of their contribution to phenotype. Finally, we will consider epialleles in population variation and their teleological role in evolution. Environ. Mol. Mutagen. 52:1–11, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.