Epigenetic regulation of gene expression: the effect of altered chromatin structure from yeast to mammals

Hum Mol Genet. 1995;4 Spec No:1765-77. doi: 10.1093/hmg/4.suppl_1.1765.


Epigenetic gene regulation refers to different states of phenotypic expression caused by differential effects of chromosome or chromatin packaging rather than by differences in DNA sequence. Examples of epigenetic regulation can be found in organisms as diverse as the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and mammals. Three major types of epigenetic regulation are considered in this review: dosage compensation, imprinting and position effect variegation. While the specific details and mechanisms of each is quite different, they all involve either local or extensive alterations in chromatin structure. A number of genes implicated in epigenetic regulation have been isolated and their products identified as proteins or RNA molecules involved at various levels in DNA, chromatin or chromosome binding. While in general our understanding of mammalian epigenetic phenomena is not as advanced as that in model systems, the detailed molecular and genetic understanding of processes responsible for conditional gene silencing in invertebrate systems provides strong models for consideration of such effects in human and mouse genetics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Schizosaccharomyces


  • Chromatin