- video of the talk from Emma Whitelaw at the ASHG conference:
- epigenetics: the study of changes in gene expression which occur in the absence of mutation but which are mitotically heritable
- the epigenome undergoes dramatic reprogramming in early development, and that different cell-types acquire specific epigenomes, but how much is hard-wired and how much is modifiable by environment?
- model system: inbred mice in a "constant" environment
- example of variegation -> Agouti allele (DNA methylation at the promoter -> change in coat color). Inheritance: no difference whether the father is yellow or brown to the proportion of different coat colors in his offsprings -> clearly non-Mendelian, epigenetics marks have been cleared and reprogrammed between generations
- could these types of alleles be an explanation for complex and sporadic disease? hard to study in outbred species like humans, so look at MZ twins, but evidence for epigenetics differences is not huge
- diet of the pregnant female has an impact on the proportion of coat color in her offsprings: not a huge effect but reproducible -> epigenetic states as a record of environmental history