An epigenetic trait is a stably inherited phenotype resulting from changes in a chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence. Epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation, together with covalent modification of histones, are thought to alter chromatin density and accessibility of the DNA to cellular machinery, thereby modulating the transcriptional potential of the underlying DNA sequence. As environmental changes influence epigenetic marks, epigenetics provides an added layer of variation that might mediate the relationship between genotype and internal and external environmental factors. Integration of our knowledge in genetics, epigenomics, and genomics with the use of systems biology tools may present investigators with new, powerful tools to study many complex human diseases such as kidney disease.
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