Emerging patterns of epigenomic variation

Trends Genet. 2011 Jun;27(6):242-50. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2011.03.001. Epub 2011 Apr 18.


Fuelled by new sequencing technologies, epigenome mapping projects are revealing epigenomic variation at all levels of biological complexity, from species to cells. Comparisons of methylation profiles among species reveal evolutionary conservation of gene body methylation patterns, pointing to the fundamental role of epigenomes in gene regulation. At the human population level, epigenomic changes provide footprints of the effects of genomic variants within the vast nonprotein-coding fraction of the genome, and comparisons of the epigenomes of parents and their offspring point to quantitative epigenomic parent-of-origin effects confounding classical Mendelian genetics. At the organismal level, comparisons of epigenomes from diverse cell types provide insights into cellular differentiation. Finally, comparisons of epigenomes from monozygotic twins help dissect genetic and environmental influences on human phenotypes and longitudinal comparisons reveal aging-associated epigenomic drift. The development of new bioinformatic frameworks for comparative epigenome analysis is putting epigenome maps within the reach of researchers across a wide spectrum of biological disciplines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome
  • Humans