Journal of Applied Physiology

Epigenetics and environment: a complex relationship

Oscar Aguilera, Agustín F. Fernández, Alberto Muñoz, Mario F. Fraga


The epigenomes of higher organisms constantly change over time. Many of these epigenetic changes are necessary to direct normal cellular development and differentiation in the developing organism. However, developmental abnormalities may occur in response to inappropriate epigenetic signaling that occurs secondarily to still poorly understood causes. In addition to genetic and stochastic influences on epigenetic processes, epigenetic variation can arise as a consequence of environmental factors. Here we review the effects of such environmental factors on the epigenomes of higher organisms. We discuss the possible impact of epigenetic changes on physiological and pathophysiological processes, depending in part on whether these changes occur during embryonic development or adulthood.

  • methylation
  • chromatin
  • epigenotype


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