Epicenter (noun) – The Central Point or Focus of Something
Epigenetics is the study of cellular factors that affect gene expression in a stable, long-term fashion. While some epigenetic changes can be heritable, they do not result from changes in DNA sequence. Because epigenetic factors can be affected by the cellular environment, epigenetic mechanisms are the likely basis for many gene-environment interactions. Major epigenetic mechanisms that have been identified include DNA methylation, histone modifications, and microRNAs.
Epigenetics at MU
The Epigenetics Group at the University of Missouri is an interdisciplinary community of faculty research labs who share a common interest and/or are actively engaged in the study of epigenetics. Our goal is to encourage interdisciplinary cooperation and to stimulate joint research projects focused on furthering our understanding of the cellular and molecular basis of gene-environment interactions that have lasting impacts on physiology.
Our members seek to understand how toxins, like alcohol or chemicals in the environment, nutrition, and disease states alter organism function and health through epigenetic mechanisms. Much of our understanding of fundamental epigenetics has come from studies in plants, where the heritable basis of these changes has been best characterized. Studies in animal models have demonstrated an epigenetic basis for effects of maternal environment on offspring health, and there is increasing evidence of epigenetic changes in human health and disease, particularly in cancer. Our group includes experts in all these areas.