Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2013 Jul 4. [Epub ahead of print]
Epigenetic vulnerability and the environmental influence on health.
SourceCentre of Biological and Health Sciences, University of Northern Parana (UNOPAR), 86041-120 Londrina, Parana, Brazil.
A growing body of evidence has drawn the attention of the scientific community by indicating the potential vulnerability to environmental changes of epigenetic mechanisms that control gene expression. Being critical components of normal development, the importance of epigenetic mechanisms for normal biology is illustrated by the fact that abnormal epigenetic patterns have increasingly been linked to the aetiology of various diseases including cancer, paediatric syndromes, autoimmune diseases, genetic disorders and even the molecular process of ageing. It is estimated that the degree of vulnerability to changes in epigenetic patterns is high during early embryonic development, a period of life in which epigenetic patterns are established and cell differentiation is intense. Moreover, increasing amounts of relevant data and information reveal that the environment might potentially impact on epigenetic patterns at every period of life. Within this context, in this study we will review the principles of epigenetic vulnerability to environmental changes, the impacts on development, the association with the origin of common diseases and also speculate about the potential of lifestyle changes to modulate epigenetic patterns and contribute to preventing common diseases.
KEYWORDS:DNA methylation, Epigenetics, environmental influence on health, histone modification
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