Epigenetics refers to the study of heritable changes in gene expression that occur without a change in DNA sequence. Epigenetic mechanisms therefore include all transcriptional controls that determine how genes are expressed during development and differentiation, but also in individual cells responding to environmental stimuli. The purpose of this review is to examine the basic principles of epigenetic mechanisms and their contribution to human disorders with a particular focus on fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common monogenic form of developmental cognitive impairment. FXS represents a prototype of the so-called repeat expansion disorders due to "dynamic" mutations, namely the expansion (known as "full mutation") of a CGG repeat in the 5'UTR of the FMR1 gene. This genetic anomaly is accompanied by epigenetic modifications (mainly DNA methylation and histone deacetylation), resulting in the inactivation of the FMR1 gene. The presence of an intact FMR1 coding sequence allowed pharmacological reactivation of gene transcription, particularly through the use of the DNA demethylating agent 5'-aza-2'-deoxycytydine and/or inhibitors of histone deacetylases. These treatments suggested that DNA methylation is dominant over histone acetylation in silencing the FMR1 gene. The importance of DNA methylation in repressing FMR1 transcription is confirmed by the existence of rare unaffected males carrying unmethylated full mutations. Finally, we address the potential use of epigenetic approaches to targeted treatment of other genetic conditions.
|Numero di pagine||12|
|Rivista||AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MEDICAL GENETICS. PART A|
|Stato di pubblicazione||Pubblicato - 2013|
- FRAGILE X SYNDROME