On the use of the word 'epigenetic'

Curr Biol. 2007 Apr 3;17(7):R233-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.02.030.


Over the past few years we have seen an odd change, or extension, in the use of the word 'epigenetic' when describing matters of gene regulation in eukaryotes. Although it may generally be that it is not worth arguing over definitions, this is true only insofar as the participants in the discussion know what each other means. I believe the altered use of the term carries baggage from the standard definition that can have misleading implications. Here I wish to probe our use of language in this way, and to show how such a discussion leads to some more general considerations concerning gene regulation.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Animals
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Semantics


  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes