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BBAW Epigenetik - en
2. Core Statements and Recommendations for Action
Biological background and importance of epigenetics
“Epigenetics” is the term used to denote a range of mechanisms which contribute to genome functioning and gene regulation in all organisms. Epigenetic mechanisms either lead to direct, long-term biochemical gene modifications which are passed on in a stable manner beyond cell divisions (from one generation of cells to the next) or they exert a short-term impact on the volume of gene products by means of RNA interference mechanisms.
Heritable gene-specific epigenetic modifications take place in eukaryotes on two levels: the methylation of DNA bases and modifications to chromosome scaffold
proteins, histones. Both forms of epigenetic modifications work together as regulatory gene switches. Once epigenetic modifications have been set, they are mostly
maintained (“inherited”) in a stable manner beyond cell divisions.
They can, however, also be removed. This setting and removing of modifications results in the
switching on and off of genes. This means that the gene programming of various cells in an organism is subject to long-lasting epigenetic control. The regulated,
cell-specific distribution of epigenetic modifications is essential for the regular development and cell differentiation of an organism.