Dynamics of epigenetic phenomena: Intergenerational and intragenerational phenotype 'washout'

TitelDynamics of epigenetic phenomena: Intergenerational and intragenerational phenotype 'washout'
MedientypJournal Article
Jahr der Veröffentlichung2015
AutorenBurggren, W.
Seitennummerierung80 - 87

Epigenetic studies of both intragenerational and transgenerational epigenetic phenotypic modifications have proliferated in the last few decades. However, the strong reductionist focus on mechanism that prevails in many epigenetic studies to date has diverted attention away what might be called the 'dynamics' of epigenetics and its role in comparative biology. Epigenetic dynamics describes how both transgenerational and intragenerational epigenetic phenotypic modifications change in non-linear patterns over time. Importantly, a dynamic perspective suggests that epigenetic phenomena should not be regarded as 'digital' (on-off), in which a modified trait necessarily suddenly disappears between one generation and the next. Rather, dynamic epigenetic phenomena may be better depicted by graded, time-related changes that can potentially involve the 'washout' of modified phenotype both within and across generations. Conceivably, an epigenetic effect might also 'wash-in' over multiple generations, and there may be unexplored additive effects resulting from the pressures of environmental stressors that wax, wane and then wax again across multiple generations. Recognition of epigenetic dynamics is also highly dependent on the threshold for detection of the phenotypic modification of interest, especially when phenotypes wash out or wash in. Thus, studies of transgenerational epigenetic effects (and intragenerational effects, for that matter) that search for persistence of the phenomenon are best conducted with highly sensitive, precise quantitative methods. All of the scenarios in this review representing epigenetic dynamics are possible and some even likely. Focused investigations that concentrate on the time course will reveal much about both the impact and mechanisms of epigenetic phenomena.© 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


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