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What is Epigenetic Inheritance?


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Campbell Biology

Chromatin modifications do not change the DNA sequence, yet they still may be passed along to future generations of cells. Inheritance of traits transmitted by mechanisms not involving the nucleotide sequence itself is called epigenetic inheritance. Whereas mutations in the DNA are permanent changes, modifications to the chromatin can be reversed. For example, DNA methylation patterns are largely erased and reestablished during gamete formation.

Researchers are amassing more and more evidence for the importance of epigenetic information in the regulation of gene expression. Epigenetic variations might help explain why one identical twin acquires a genetically based disease, such as schizophrenia, but the other does not, despite their identical genomes. Alterations in normal patterns of DNA methylation are seen in some cancers, where they are associated with inappropriate gene expression. Evidently, enzymes that modify chromatin structure are integral parts of the eukaryotic cell’s machinery for regulating transcription.

Source:

Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology (p. 370). Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.


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