Epigenetics as a unifying principle in the aetiology of complex traits and diseases

Nature. 2010 Jun 10;465(7299):721-7. doi: 10.1038/nature09230.


Epigenetic modifications of DNA and histones might be crucial for understanding the molecular basis of complex phenotypes. One reason for this is that epigenetic factors are sometimes malleable and plastic enough to react to cues from the external and internal environments. Such induced epigenetic changes can be solidified and propagated during cell division, resulting in permanent maintenance of the acquired phenotype. In addition, the finding that there is partial epigenetic stability in somatic and germline cells allows insight into the molecular mechanisms of heritability. Epigenetics can provide a new framework for the search of aetiological factors in complex traits and diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Disease*
  • Environment
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Inheritance Patterns / genetics
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Phenotype*
  • Twins / genetics