Chapter

Epigenetics and the Environmental Regulation of the Genome and Its Function

Michael J. Meaney

in Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199755059
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979479 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199755059.003.0006
Epigenetics and the Environmental Regulation of the Genome and Its Function

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There are enduring effects of early experience on neural function. Such effects are often referred to under the rubric of “developmental programming.” This chapter reviews the emerging evidence for epigenetics as a candidate mechanism for such effects. Epigenetics refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in nucleotide sequence and focuses on the study chemical modifications to chromatin that regulate transcription at specific genomic sites. Environmental events can directly modify the epigenetic states. Studies with rodent models suggest that during both early development and in adult life, environmental signals activate intracellular pathways that directly remodel the “epigenome,” leading to changes in gene expression and neural function. While essentially correlational, clinical studies implicate epigenetic mechanisms in the pathophysiology of human disease. These studies define a biological basis for the interplay between environmental signals and the genome in the regulation of individual differences in neural function.

Keywords: epigenetics; developmental programming; neural function; environment

Chapter.  13683 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Developmental Psychology

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