Epigenetics and phenotypic variation in mammals.

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Carrier-Proteins, DNA-Methylation, Environmental-Exposure, Epigenesis-Genetic, Female, Genomics, Humans, Male, Nuclear-Proteins, Phenotype, Research-Support-Non-U, S, -Gov't, Variation-(Genetics)

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Mamm Genome 2006 May; 17(5):365-74.


What causes phenotypic variation? By now it is clear that phenotype is a result of the interaction between genotype and environment, in addition to variation not readily attributable to either. Epigenetic phenomena associated with phenotypic variation at the biochemical, cellular, tissue, and organism level are now well recognized and are likely to contribute to the "intangible variation" alluded to. While it is clear that epigenetic modifications are mitotically heritable, the fidelity of this process is not well understood. Inheritance through more than one generation of meioses is even less well studied. So it remains unclear to what extent epigenetic changes contribute to phenotypic variation in natural populations. How might such evidence be obtained? What are the features of phenotypes that might suggest an epigenetic component? How much of the epigenetic component is truly independent of genetic changes? The answers to such questions must come from studies designed specifically to detect subtle, stochastically determined phenotypic variation in suitable animal models.