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Mutat Res. 2006 Aug 30;600(1-2):46-57. Epub 2006 Jul 18.

Environmental and nutritional effects on the epigenetic regulation of genes.

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Institute of Molecular Genetics, CNRS, UMR-5535, University of Montpellier II, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier Cedex 5, France. <>


Major efforts have been directed towards the identification of genetic mutations, their use as biomarkers, and the understanding of their consequences on human health and well-being. There is an emerging interest, however, in the possibility that environmentally-induced changes at levels other than the genetic information could have long-lasting consequences as well. This review summarises our current knowledge of how the environment, nutrition, and ageing affect the way mammalian genes are organised and transcribed, without changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Admittedly, the link between environment and epigenetics remains largely to be explored. However, recent studies indicate that environmental factors and diet can perturb the way genes are controlled by DNA methylation and covalent histone modifications. Unexpectedly, and not unlike genetic mutations, aberrant epigenetic alterations and their phenotypic effects can sometimes be passed on to the next generation.

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