Age-related changes in DNA methylation have been implicated in cellular senescence and longevity, yet the causes and functional consequences of these variants remain unclear. To elucidate the role of age-related epigenetic changes in healthy ageing and potential longevity, we tested for association between whole-blood DNA methylation patterns in 172 female twins aged 32 to 80 with age and age-related phenotypes.
While the eukaryotic genome is the same throughout all somatic cells in an organism, there are specific structures and functions that discern one type of cell from another. These differences are due to the cell's unique gene expression patterns that are determined during cellular differentiation. Interestingly, these cell-specific gene expression patterns can be affected by an organism's environment throughout its lifetime leading to phenotypical changes that have the potential of altering risk of some diseases.
In ageing, alterations in inflammatory/immune response and antioxidant capacity lead to increased susceptibility to diseases and loss of mobility and agility. Various essential micronutrients in the diet are involved in age-altered biological functions. Micronutrients (zinc, copper, iron) play a pivotal role either in maintaining and reinforcing the immune and antioxidant performances or in affecting the complex network of genes (nutrigenomic approach) involved in encoding proteins for a correct inflammatory/immune response.
The impact of diet and environmental factors on genes concerned with epigenetic inheritance and the mechanism of evolution has grown significantly beyond the Modern Synthesis period. Epigenetic inheritance is the passing of phenotypic change to subsequent generations in ways that are outside the genetic code of DNA. Recently, polymorphisms of the human Delta-5 (fatty acid desaturase, FADS1) and Delta-6 (FADS2) desaturase genes have been described as being associated with the level of several long-chain n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in serum phospholipids.
Early-life stress induces persistent memory traces on our genes and programs the life-long risk for depression. Epigenetic marking of the arginine vasopressin (AVP) gene by early-life stress in mice underpins sustained expression and increased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, triggering endocrine and behavioral alterations that are frequent features in depression. This epigenetic memory evolves in two steps coordinated by the epigenetic reader and writer MeCP2.
Waddington's original description of canalization refers to the ability of an organism to maintain phenotypic fidelity in the face of environmental and/or genetic perturbation. Development of the human brain requires exposure to a 'wild-type' environment-one that supports the optimal set of instructions for development. Recently derived brain structures in our species, such as the expanded neocortex, may be more vulnerable to decanalization because there has been insufficient time to evolve buffering capacity.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder which can develop as a result of exposure to a traumatic event and is associated with significant functional impairment. Family and twin studies have found that risk for PTSD is associated with an underlying genetic vulnerability and that more than 30% of the variance associated with PTSD is related to a heritable component.
The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry: The Official Journal of the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry
OBJECTIVES: We explored whether in utero DES exposure has produced consistent findings with regard to an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. METHODS: We reviewed systematically the epidemiological studies investigating a possible association between prenatal DES exposure and risk of psychiatric disorders. RESULTS: We identified 10 relevant studies reporting the psychiatric outcome of offspring with a history of in utero DES exposure compared to a control group.
Abnormal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signaling seems to have a central role in the course and development of various neurological and psychiatric disorders. In addition, positive effects of psychotropic drugs are known to activate BDNF-mediated signaling. Although the BDNF gene has been associated with several diseases, molecular mechanisms other than functional genetic variations can impact on the regulation of BDNF gene expression and lead to disturbed BDNF signaling and associated pathology.
European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience
The field of imaging genetics traditionally studies unidirectional associations between genes, brain functioning, and behavior. In a recent study by Ursini et al. (J Neurosci 31:6692-6698, 2011), imaging genetics methods are combined with epigenetic marks in living human beings. This approach may lead to a new field of imaging epigenetics, providing more mechanistic insight into causal pathways of how gene and environment interact and affect brain development.