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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2013 Jan 5;368(1609):20110337. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0337.

What obesity research tells us about epigenetic mechanisms.

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Department of Pharmacology, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, High Street, Kensington, New South Wales 2052, Australia.


The pathophysiology of obesity is extremely complex and is associated with extensive gene expression changes in tissues throughout the body. This situation, combined with the fact that all gene expression changes are thought to have associated epigenetic changes, means that the links between obesity and epigenetics will undoubtedly be vast. Much progress in identifying epigenetic changes induced by (or inducing) obesity has already been made, with candidate and genome-wide approaches. These discoveries will aid the clinician through increasing our understanding of the inheritance, development and treatment of obesity. However, they are also of great value for epigenetic researchers, as they have revealed mechanisms of environmental interactions with epigenetics that can produce or perpetuate a disease state. Here, we will review the evidence for four mechanisms through which epigenetics contributes to obesity: as downstream effectors of environmental signals; through abnormal global epigenetic state driving obesogenic expression patterns; through facilitating developmental programming and through transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.

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