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Nucleic Acids Res. 2012 Nov;40(21):10596-613. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks863. Epub 2012 Sep 21.

Epigenetic Editing: targeted rewriting of epigenetic marks to modulate expression of selected target genes.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Medical Biology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Hanzeplein 1 EA11, 9713 GZ, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Despite significant advances made in epigenetic research in recent decades, many questions remain unresolved, especially concerning cause and consequence of epigenetic marks with respect to gene expression modulation (GEM). Technologies allowing the targeting of epigenetic enzymes to predetermined DNA sequences are uniquely suited to answer such questions and could provide potent (bio)medical tools. Toward the goal of gene-specific GEM by overwriting epigenetic marks (Epigenetic Editing, EGE), instructive epigenetic marks need to be identified and their writers/erasers should then be fused to gene-specific DNA binding domains. The appropriate epigenetic mark(s) to change in order to efficiently modulate gene expression might have to be validated for any given chromatin context and should be (mitotically) stable. Various insights in such issues have been obtained by sequence-specific targeting of epigenetic enzymes, as is presented in this review. Features of such studies provide critical aspects for further improving EGE. An example of this is the direct effect of the edited mark versus the indirect effect of recruited secondary proteins by targeting epigenetic enzymes (or their domains). Proof-of-concept of expression modulation of an endogenous target gene is emerging from the few EGE studies reported. Apart from its promise in correcting disease-associated epi-mutations, EGE represents a powerful tool to address fundamental epigenetic questions.

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