About this Research Topic
In recent years, the expanding knowledge on epigenetic mechanisms regulating gene expression has raised much interest in reproductive biology, due to the possibility of epigenetic inheritance of acquired traits through the germ line. Epigenetics can be defined as the study of heritable changes in gene expression patterns induced by environmental influence, and not caused by altered DNA sequence. It is well known that epigenetic modifications characterized by DNA methylation, histone post-translational modifications (PTMs), chromatin remodeling and non-coding RNAs, are important regulators during gametogenesis. Histone PTMs and DNA methylation differentially signal chromatin states such as open/transcription-permissive or closed/repressed, as well as regulatory elements in DNA, including active enhancers and promoters. DNA is particularly vulnerable during certain stages of meiosis, where environmental stressors can promote modifications in germ cell chromatin. Paternal and maternal life styles, e.g. dietary deficiencies, drug abuse, sedentary lifestyle, among others, have been shown to induce stable modifications in the mammalian germ line and contribute to trans-generational effects.
Nowadays, the mechanisms by which environmental traits can be codified into the germ cell epigenome and transmitted to the progeny are the focus of intense research. This poses three important questions.
1) - What are the main states vulnerable to germ line epigenetic reprogramming?
2) - Through what mechanisms do the parental lifestyles alter the germ cell epigenome?
3) - What are the main epigenetic marks involved in the encoding and transmission of acquired characters?
This Research Topic calls for original research articles and reviews regarding the understanding of factors and pathways that control epigenetic programming during mammalian reproduction that may open new ways for identifying potential epigenetic mechanisms that could affect the future embryo development and offspring metabolic, developmental and cognitive traits.
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