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Epigenetic Inheritance: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

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  • UserProf Anne Ferguson-Smith
  • ClockThursday 04 February 2021, 18:15-19:45
  • HouseOnline.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Miroslava Novoveska.

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Epigenetic modifications are chemical marks present on DNA and on the proteins that package our DNA into chromosomes. These modifications influence the architecture of our chromosomes, modulate gene expression and supress the repetitive mobilizable elements that represent around half of our DNA . Our DNA provides the fundamental framework for heritability. Nonetheless, a number of studies suggest that there may be transmission of traits from parents to offspring, including those influenced by environmental insults, that might not be mediated genetically. Might this inheritance be epigenetically conferred? Epigenetic modifications are dynamic and cell-type specific. In mammals, erasure and re-establishment of epigenetic states from one generation to the next ensures that a fresh epigenome is reinstated in offspring and that epigenetic marks established in one generation are not inherited. Some processes, however, such as the remarkable process of genomic imprinting, require inheritance of epigenetic modifications at specific DNA regions to confer a memory of parental origin and regulate some genes in the next generation. The epigenetic inheritance of these imprints is a highly-regulated process. But might epigenetic inheritance in mammals be more widespread? It is difficult to design robust experiments to understand and elucidate epigenetic inheritance. This is particularly relevant in investigations into the environmental modulation of epigenetic states in one generation that might have an influence on outcomes in offspring and grand-offspring. That the behaviours of one generation might have a profound impact on the well-being of our descendants is an area that engages the society at large. Understanding the extent and mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance is key to a full appreciation of heritability in health and disease. I will present data from newly conducted experiments to explore the mechanisms and implications of epigenetic inheritance in mammals.

This talk is part of the Trinity College Science Society (TCSS) series.

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