Mechanisms of epigenetic memory

Trends Genet. 2014 Jun;30(6):230-6. doi: 10.1016/j.tig.2014.04.004. Epub 2014 Apr 26.


Although genetics has an essential role in defining the development, morphology, and physiology of an organism, epigenetic mechanisms have an essential role in modulating these properties by regulating gene expression. During development, epigenetic mechanisms establish stable gene expression patterns to ensure proper differentiation. Such mechanisms also allow organisms to adapt to environmental changes and previous experiences can impact the future responsiveness of an organism to a stimulus over long timescales and even over generations. Here, we discuss the concept of epigenetic memory, defined as the stable propagation of a change in gene expression or potential induced by developmental or environmental stimuli. We highlight three distinct paradigms of epigenetic memory that operate on different timescales.

Keywords: chromatin; epigenetics; inheritance; memory; methylation; nuclear pore complex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Epigenomics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • Histones