alexa Epigenetics and How Epigenetic Changes Affect Genes?

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Epigenetics and How Epigenetic Changes Affect Genes?

Epigenetics involves genetic control by factors other than an individual's DNA sequence. Epigenetic changes can switch genes on or off and determine which proteins are transcribed. Epigenetics is involved in many normal cellular processes. Consider the fact that our cells all have the same DNA, but our bodies contain many different types of cells: neurons, liver cells, pancreatic cells, inflammatory cells, and others. How can this be? In short, cells, tissues, and organs differ because they have certain sets of genes that are "turned on" or expressed, as well as other sets that are "turned off" or inhibited. Epigenetic silencing is one way to turn genes off, and it can contribute to differential expression. Silencing might also explain, in part, why genetic twins are not phenotypically identical. In addition, epigenetics is important for X-chromosome inactivation in female mammals, which is necessary so that females do not have twice the number of X-chromosome gene products as males (Egger et al., 2004). Thus, the significance of turning genes off via epigenetic changes is readily apparent.Within cells, there are three systems that can interact with each other to silence genes: DNA methylation, histone modifications, and RNA-associated silencing (Figure 1; Egger et al., 2004). DNA Methylation DNA methylation is a chemical process that adds a methyl group to DNA. It is highly specific and always happens in a region in which a cytosine nucleotide is located next to a guanine nucleotide that is linked by a phosphate; this is called a CpG site (Egger et al., 2004; Jones & Baylin, 2002; Robertson, 2002). CpG sites are methylated by one of three enzymes called DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) (Egger et al., 2004; Robertson, 2002). Inserting methyl groups changes the appearance and structure of DNA, modifying a gene's interactions with the machinery within a cell's nucleus that is needed for transcription. DNA methylation is used in some genes to differentiate which gene copy is inherited from the father and which gene copy is inherited from the mother, a phenomenon known as imprinting. Histone Modifications Histones are proteins that are the primary components of chromatin, which is the complex of DNA and proteins that makes up chromosomes. Histones act as a spool around which DNA can wind. When histones are modified after they are translated into protein (i.e., post-translation modification), they can influence how chromatin is arranged, which, in turn, can determine whether the associated chromosomal DNA will be transcribed. If chromatin is not in a compact form, it is active, and the associated DNA can be transcribed. Conversely, if chromatin is condensed (creating a complex called heterochromatin), then it is inactive, and DNA transcription does not occur. There are two main ways histones can be modified: acetylation and methylation. These are chemical processes that add either an acetyl or methyl group, respectively, to the amino acid lysine that is located in the histone. Acetylation is usually associated with active chromatin, while deacetylation is generally associated with heterochromatin. On the other hand, histone methylation can be a marker for both active and inactive regions of chromatin. For example, methylation of a particular lysine (K9) on a specific histone (H3) that marks silent DNA is widely distributed throughout heterochromatin. This is the type of epigenetic change that is responsible for the inactivated X chromosome of females. In contrast, methylation of a different lysine (K4) on the same histone (H3) is a marker for active genes RNA-Associated Silencing Genes can also be turned off by RNA when it is in the form of antisense transcripts, noncoding RNAs, or RNA interference. RNA might affect gene expression by causing heterochromatin to form, or by triggering histone modifications and DNA methylation
 
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