Epigenetics and the biological definition of gene x environment interactions

Child Dev. 2010 Jan-Feb;81(1):41-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01381.x.


Variations in phenotype reflect the influence of environmental conditions during development on cellular functions, including that of the genome. The recent integration of epigenetics into developmental psychobiology illustrates the processes by which environmental conditions in early life structurally alter DNA, providing a physical basis for the influence of the perinatal environmental signals on phenotype over the life of the individual. This review focuses on the enduring effects of naturally occurring variations in maternal care on gene expression and phenotype to provide an example of environmentally driven plasticity at the level of the DNA, revealing the interdependence of gene and environmental in the regulation of phenotype.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Critical Period, Psychological*
  • DNA / ultrastructure
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior* / psychology
  • Phenotype
  • Social Environment


  • DNA