Advancing Epigenetics Towards Systems Biology

Definition of Epigenetics

 

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Conrad Waddington (1905-1975) is often credited with coining the term epigenetics in 1942 as "the branch of biology which studies the causal interactions between genes and their products, which bring the phenotype into being". Epigenetics appears in the literature as far back as the mid 19th century, although the conceptual origins date back to Aristotle (384-322 BC). He believed in epigenesis: the development of individual organic form from the unformed. This controversial view was the main argument against our having developed from miniscule fully-formed bodies. Even today the extent to which we are preprogrammed versus environmentally shaped awaits universal consensus. The field of epigenetics has emerged to bridge the gap between nature and nurture. In the 21st century you will most commonly find epigenetics defined as 'the study of heritable changes in genome function that occur without a change in DNA sequence'. But what do the scientists that work in this rapidly expanding research field have to say?

Brona McVittie reports :: June 2006

"Epigenetics has always been all the weird and wonderful things that can't be explained by genetics."
Denise Barlow (Vienna, Austria)

"DNA is just a tape carrying information, and a tape is no good without a player. Epigenetics is about the tape player."
Bryan Turner (Birmingham, UK)

"I would take a picture of a computer and say that the hard disk is like DNA, and then the programmes are like the epigenome. You can access certain information from the hard disk using the programmes on the computer. But there are certain password protected areas and those which are open. I would say we're trying to understand why there are passwords for certain regions and why other regions are open."
Jörn Walter (Saarland, Germany)

"There is around 2m of DNA in a nucleus of only a few micrometers. We are trying to learn about the mechanisms whereby the DNA gets accessed given the tiny volume of the nucleus."
Gunter Reuter (Halle, Germany)

"Information management in the nucleus means that some of the genetic information is very very tightly packaged in the genome. Then there is genetic information that has to be on and active all the time, house-keeping genes for example. So epigenetics is a bit like information management at home, something that you need all the time you will not store away, but your old school records you keep packed in boxes in the attic."
Peter Becker (Munich, Germany)

"The difference between genetics and epigenetics can probably be compared to the difference between writing and reading a book. Once a book is written, the text (the genes or DNA: stored information) will be the same in all the copies distributed to the interested audience. However, each individual reader of a given book may interpret the story slightly differently, with varying emotions and projections as they continue to unfold the chapters. In a very similar manner, epigenetics would allow different interpretations of a fixed template (the book or genetic code) and result in different read-outs, dependent upon the variable conditions under which this template is interrogated."
Thomas Jenuwein (Vienna, Austria)

Mon, May 29th 2017- Wed, May 31st 2017

After last year's successful kick-off meeting, the EpiGeneSwiss meeting will take place again in Weggis, Switzerland. This year we have added one day in addition to accommodate more topics and more t...

Mon, Jun 19th 2017- Wed, Jun 21st 2017

The focus of the 2017 IMB Conference is on “Gene Regulation by the Numbers: Quantitative Approaches to Study Transcription”. The conference will explore the latest findings and technological developme...

Tue, Jul 11th 2017- Thu, Jul 13th 2017

The MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol invites all professionals interested in aetiological epidemiology and Mendelian randomization to attend our conference on the subject...

Wed, Aug 30th 2017- Fri, Sep 1st 2017

The nucleosome is the fundamental building block of chromatin organisation and genome function. The 20th anniversary of the high resolution nucleosome structure marks a milestone for bringing together...

LAST EVENTS

EpiGeneSys Final
Meeting in Paris

Thur. 11 February 2016 - Sat. 13 February 2016

More than 280 scientists attended the fifth Annual Meeting of EpiGeneSys. The conference kicked off with a talk by coordinator Geneviève Almouzni, Director of the Research Center at the Institut Curie, highlighting the achievements of the network over more than five years...

Maison des océans - Paris Read more

PAST EVENTS

The Non-Coding Genome ...

December 3-4 th, 2015

The last training workshop of the EpiGeneSys network

Hotel Mediterraneo - Rome, Italy Read more

Paris / TriRhena Chromatin Club

July 9th, 2015

...exciting talks and network with members of the Chromatin community!

... An EpiGeneSys TAB workshop

June 11st-12nd , 2015

... learn about current approaches to single cell epigenetics and to meet up and network with...

Montpellier, FranceRead more

Latest publications

2017-04-30

The impact of rare and low-frequency genetic variants in common disease.

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2017-04-25

Stable Polycomb-dependent transgenerational inheritance of chromatin states in Drosophila.

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2017-04-25

Stable Polycomb-dependent transgenerational inheritance of chromatin states in Drosophila.

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