Advancing Epigenetics Towards Systems Biology

Glossary

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Term Definition
Mass spectrometer
Instrument that produces and measures a mass spectrum. It separates ion according to the ratio of their mass to charge, allowing scientists to determine the abundance of each isotope. Mass spectrometry of proteins digested into smaller peptides is used to identify peptide sequences and phosphorylation states of specific amino acids. Two primary methods are applied, i.e. electrospray ionization (ESI) for ionization of whole proteins and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI).
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Medea gene
A maternally expressed imprinted gene that makes a Polycomb group protein involved in cell proliferation during seed development in Arabidopsis.
Mesenchymal stem cells
(MSCs) Stem cells found in the vertebrate mesenchyme of embryonic mesoderm, which cosists of loosely packed undifferentiated cells.
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Messenger RNA
(mRNA) A gene transcript that facilitates the production of protein from DNA. mRNA in eukaryotes is transcribed in the nucleus and migrates through the nuclear membrane into the cytoplasm where it is translated within ribosomes into protein.
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Methylation
The replacement of a hydrogen atom (H) with a methyl group (CH3).
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Methylation patterns
The pattern of how particular amino acids are methylated within an array of nucleosomes, e.g. a lysine or arginine can be mono-, bi- or trimethylated deciding about the degree of heterochromatinisation. DNA also becomes directly methylated by DNA methyltransferases. In DNA methylation occurs mainly at CpG sites (where a cytosine is followed by a guanine in the DNA sequence). The pattern of histone or DNA-methylation may alter gene expression and can be a reason for developing cancer
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Methylcytosine
A reversible covalent modification of cytosine bases in the genetic code. Cytosines get methylated enzymatically, which initiates a process that results in gene silencing.
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MicroRNA genes
A large class of small non-coding genes that regulate protein production by binding to partially complementary sites on mRNA transcripts.
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Microscope
An instrument for viewing objects that are too small to be seen by the naked or unaided eye.
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Model organism
Organism used for scientific research for practical reasons. They reproduce quickly in large numbers, are easy to handle and represent particular experimental properties not able to handle experientally with human research systems. Most model organisms have a known genome sequence. Examples are mouse Mus musculus, the worm Cenorhabditis elegans, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, mouse-ear cress plants Arabidopsis thaliana and the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster.
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Monozygotic twins
Twins derived from a single fertilized ovum. MZ twins are identical genetically, but not epigenetically.
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Multipotency
(=pluripotency) Totipotent cells have total potential. They specialize into pluripotent cells that can give rise to most, but not all, of the tissues necessary for fetal development. Pluripotent cells undergo further specialization into multipotent cells that are committed to give rise to cells that have a particular function.
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Mutation
See genetic mutation.