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Chapter

Cover Human Nutrition

Diet and epigenetics  

John C. Mathers

This chapter explores the correlation between diet and epigenetics. It explains that epigenetics is the area of science concerned with heritable changes in gene expression which do not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence. As the chapter explains, changes in epigenetic marks occur during embryogenesis and across the lifecourse in humans. The chapter elaborates on the marks and molecules which constitute the epigenetic machinery used to regulate gene expression. It also explains how dietary and other factors influence epigenetic patterns and relate to phenotype while discussing the effects of nutritional status, dietary patterns, and specific dietary factors on epigenetic marks and molecules in humans.

Chapter

Cover Animal Physiology

Physiological Development and Epigenetics  

This chapter focuses on the physiological development and epigenetics of animals. It highlights how the physiology of immature animals always differs from adults. It also considers hermoregulation and brain development as aspects of physiology that undergo postnatal development. Even though their importance is not exclusive for development, phenotypic plasticity and epigenetics have intimate connections with development; phenotype plasticity refers to the ability of an animal to express two or more genetically controlled phenotypes. Epigenetics considers the modifications of gene expression which are transmitted during gene replication. The chapter details the major mechanisms of epigenetic marking: DNA methylation and covalent modification of histone proteins.

Chapter

Cover Molecular Biology of RNA

RNA biology: future perspectives  

This chapter considers the complexities of chromatin modifications and epigenetics, the regulation of transcription, and cotranscriptional and post-transcriptional processes. It reviews some of the topical areas of RNA biology. It begins by describing the explosion of transcriptomics data and the opportunities and challenges that this brings. It also looks at the growing prominence of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) and describes the use of CRISPR, an RNA-guided genome editing system that will revolutionize both basic and applied research. The chapter discusses transcriptome sequences that are derived from copying RNA sequences into cDNA using reverse transcriptase, followed by sequencing. It mentions the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS), which is known as a key technological development.

Chapter

Cover Genetic Analysis

Genomes, chromosomes, and epigenetics  

The genetic information for the biological processes that a species carries out is contained within the DNA sequence of its genome. The DNA sequences of many genomes having been completed, the next steps in genomic analysis involve annotation of the sequence, that is, identifying the functional elements within that sequence. These functional elements include such sequenced based information as transcripts, splice variants, and binding sites for proteins. While most of the attention in molecular genetics has been focused on the genes and their DNA sequences, the DNA in eukaryotic cells is packaged as chromatin fibers into chromosomes. Changes in chromosome structure are important in regulating transcription, recombination, replication, and many other biological processes but, because these important changes occur locally and dynamically, they have only recently been studied on a genome-wide scale. Thus, in addition to the DNA sequence itself, the functional elements to be annotated include structural modifications in chromatin. These modifications result in heritable changes in the gene function without corresponding changes in the DNA sequence; and they are known as epigenetic changes. Epigenetics has a long history in genetic analysis; with contemporary experimental tools, we are beginning to understand the common molecular basis for some epigenetic phenomena.

Chapter

Cover Human Nutrition

Pregnancy and lactation  

Victoria Hall Moran

This chapter provides an overview of the process of pregnancy and lactation. Interest in maternal nutrition has increased following the findings of epidemiological studies that connected different patterns of prenatal growth to long-term health. Maternal diet and nutritional status need to be sufficient in pregnancy both to meet the additional nutrient demands that result from the changes. The chapter explains how epigenetic changes modify gene expression without changing the underlying DNA sequence while considering the impact of nutrition in pregnancy on foetal growth and development. It highlights the importance of appropriate nutrition during lactation and its effect on breastmilk composition.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Molecular Ecology

Behavioural ecology  

This chapter looks into behavioural ecology. Sexual selection, which is a form of natural selection, helps explain the distinct sexual dimorphism in the secondary sexual characteristics between the sexes alongside kin selection. The chapter recognizes five basic types of animal mating systems: monogamy, polygyny, polyandry, polygynandry, and promiscuity. It notes how molecular techniques have been used to examine dispersal behaviour and enabled dietary analysis. The chapter highlights behaviour playing as a key part in reproductive success in terms of speciation. It mentions how epigenetic modifications of the genome and transgenerational epigenetic inheritance influenced modifications in animal behaviour.

Chapter

Cover Molecular Biology of RNA

The ‘macro’ RNAs: long non-coding RNAs and epigenetics  

This chapter deals with long non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) which are transcribed from separate genes and are between 5,000 and 15,000 individuals. It explains that long ncRNAs are transcribed by RNA polymerase II and are spliced to give the final ncRNA, but do not have any open reading frames to encode proteins. It also focuses on the long class of ncRNAs. These are referred to as macroRNAs, which are involved in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. The chapter mentions important groups of shorter ncRNAs that have partially overlapping functional roles in directing epigenetics, including the siRNAs and rasiRNA. It discusses the specific roles of RNA molecules in controlling gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms.

Chapter

Cover Cell Signalling

Cell Signalling Disorders; Cancer And Apoptosis  

This chapter examines why cells need to proliferate and die and talks about some mechanisms that control cell development. It discusses how epigenetics can influence cell signalling and how cell signalling dysfunction can lead to tumour development. It also points out the importance of apoptosis and the mechanisms that control it, such as mitochondrial-dependent and mitochondrial-independent pathways. The chapter highlights that while all the encoding that is needed to make a human from a single cell is held in the genome and the same in every cell, there is also a need for cell specification. In this context, it is of great importance that the control of cell growth and development is both accurate and ongoing to ensure that cells are in the right place and carrying out the correct jobs.

Chapter

Cover Genetics in Medicine

Nucleic Acids, Genes, and Genomes  

This chapter examines the structure of the DNA molecule and its organization in line with chromosomes and the mitochondria of human cells. It explores the human genome and the organization of coding and non-coding DNA. Additionally, the chapter highlights the roles of the Human Genome Project (HGP) and spin-off projects in the progress of genetic medicine. It also compares the function of RNA molecules in the transcription and translation into protein sequences. It then tackles the regulation of gene expression which is the transmission of information from a DNA sequence that results in a gene product. Moreover, the chapter states that epigenetic changes can modify gene expression without an associated change in the DNA sequence.

Book

Cover Genetic Analysis
Genetic Analysis applies the combined power of molecular biology, genetics, and genomics to explore how the principles of genetics can be used as analytical tools to solve biological problems. Opening with a brief overview of key genetic principles, model organisms, and epigenetics, the book goes on to explore the use of gene mutations and the analysis of gene expression and activity. A discussion of the genetic structure of natural populations follows, before the interaction of genes during suppression and epistasis, how we study gene networks, and personalized genomics are considered.

Book

Cover Molecular Biology of RNA

David Elliott and Michael Ladomery

Molecular Biology of RNA provides an overview of a cutting-edge field of biology. It starts with an introduction to the subject. It looks at how RNA can form versatile structures. It moves on to consider catalytic RNAs. Other topics covered include pre-mRNA splicing by the spliceosome, the RNA-binding proteins, pre-mRNA splicing defects found in development and disease, and co-transcriptional pre-mRNA processing. The text also looks at nucleocytoplasmic traffic of messenger RNA, messenger RNA localization, and translation of messenger RNA. It also examines stability and degradation of mRNA and RNA editing. Finally, the text provides an analysis on biogenesis and nucleocytoplasmic traffic of non-coding RNAs; the 'macro' RNAs, which include long non-coding RNAs and epigenetics; and the short non-coding RNAs and gene silencing. The text ends with a quick look at future perspectives.

Chapter

Cover Evolution

The Evolution of the Theory: Changing Views  

This chapter discusses the changing views into the development of an evolution theory. Modern Synthesis is a set of tools for thinking which builds a model of the evolving living world. Modern Synthesis emerged from the re-interpretation of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species following the re-discovery of Gregor Mendel's work on genetics and the establishment of August Weismann's cell theory. The chapter notes how natural selection is known to be the main driver of evolutionary change, which is observed through the shifts in allele frequencies in populations. Additionally, behavioural systems, symbolic systems, and epigenetics help explain evolution theory.