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Epigenetic mechanisms involved in developmental nutritional programming

Author(s): Anne Gabory | Linda Attig | Claudine Junien

Journal: World Journal of Diabetes
ISSN 1948-9358

Volume: 2;
Issue: 10;
Start page: 164;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: DNA methylation | Developmental origin of health and disease | Epigenetics | Histone modifications | Nutrition

The ways in which epigenetic modifications fix the effects of early environmental events, ensuring sustained responses to transient stimuli, which result in modified gene expression patterns and phenotypes later in life, is a topic of considerable interest. This review focuses on recently discovered mechanisms and calls into question prevailing views about the dynamics, position and functions of epigenetic marks. Most epigenetic studies have addressed the long-term effects on a small number of epigenetic marks, at the global or individual gene level, of environmental stressors in humans and animal models. In parallel, increasing numbers of studies based on high-throughput technologies and focusing on humans and mice have revealed additional complexity in epigenetic processes, by highlighting the importance of crosstalk between the different epigenetic marks. A number of studies focusing on the developmental origin of health and disease and metabolic programming have identified links between early nutrition, epigenetic processes and long-term illness. The existence of a self-propagating epigenetic cycle has been demonstrated. Moreover, recent studies demonstrate an obvious sexual dimorphism both for programming trajectories and in response to the same environmental insult. Despite recent progress, we are still far from understanding how, when and where environmental stressors disturb key epigenetic mechanisms. Thus, identifying the original key marks and their changes throughout development during an individual’s lifetime or over several generations remains a challenging issue.
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