Find out about our work in epigenetic studies and understanding gene expression.
Epigenetics is a very exciting area of study, based on the relatively recent realisation that not every aspect of an organism is controlled by its DNA sequence. Instead, genes can be read in different ways due to changes in the way they are expressed.
Epigenetic control sits on top of the genetic control paradigm. Through different proteins effectively taking control of individual genes, the same DNA can have the effect of producing different phenotypes or traits. This might be due to changes in the methylation pattern on some genes making them more or less active, and there is potential for this effect to change from time to time as that level of methylation changes. A chemical change in the DNA methylation, the proteins that pack the DNA into chromosomes, and other chemical processes can change genetics through epigenetic control.
In a practical example, the stress on an organism caused by a heatwave can affect the chemistry of a chromosome and consequently change to the way the genes are being expressed.
The implications of this research are huge. It suggests that an organism can be born with a particular genetic disposition, but is not necessarily pre-destined to any particular trait. Of even further interest, it is clear that epigenetic changes are reversible, for example when the stress factor goes away as, in the example above, the heatwave conditions end.
Our methylation service can help researchers to recognise how genes are expressed and the potential epigenetic influences. This may help breeders to find and propagate phenotypic oddities and exploit the potential for epigenetic control. It is recognised that if a particular DNA sequence is bred out of an organism, that DNA is lost and will not return. The reversible nature of epigenetic control does not have that limitation
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