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Your Environment. Your Health.

Predicting Placement of Epigenetic Modifications

Wei Wang, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego; Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Ltd
NIEHS Grant U01ES017166

An NIEHS grantee and colleagues have developed a way to predict which DNA sequences are likely to contain epigenetic modifications. Scientists could use this information to edit these sequences, which would reveal more about how these sections of DNA regulate the epigenetic modifications that control gene expression.

Epigenetic modifications, or marks, change how genes are expressed without changing the DNA code. These alterations include histone modifications and DNA methylation, and they play critical roles in development, disease, and other biological processes. By comparing DNA sequences with and without epigenetic modifications, the researchers identified specific sequences that are recognized by the DNA-binding proteins that specify exactly where other enzymes make epigenetic modifications. The researchers call their new analysis approach Epigram and have made it and the DNA sequences they identified openly available to other scientists online.

The investigators say that their study provides the first catalog of DNA sequences that could be used to guide epigenome editing, which might one day link variations in DNA sequence with epigenomic effects that lead to disease, for example.

Citation: Whitaker JW, Chen Z, Wang W. 2014. Predicting the human epigenome from DNA motifs. Nat Methods; doi:10.1038/nmeth.3065. [Online 21 September 2014]


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