epigenetics

epigenetics

[ep-i-juh-net-iks]
noun (used with a singular verb)
Genetics. the study of the process by which genetic information is translated into the substance and behavior of an organism: specifically, the study of the way in which the expression of heritable traits is modified by environmental influences or other mechanisms without a change to the DNA sequence.

Origin:
1942; coined by Conrad H. Waddington, 1905–75, British biologist; blend of epigenesis and genetics

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epigenetics (ˌɛpɪdʒɪˈnɛtɪks)
 
n
the study of heritable changes that occur without a change in the DNA sequence

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Encyclopedia Britannica
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epigenetics

the study of the chemical modification of specific genes or gene-associated proteins of an organism. Epigenetic modifications can define how the information in genes is expressed and used by cells. The term epigenetics came into general use in the early 1940s, when British embryologist Conrad Waddington used it to describe the interactions between genes and gene products, which direct development and give rise to an organism's phenotype (observable characteristics). Since then, information revealed by epigenetics studies has revolutionized the fields of genetics and developmental biology. Specifically, researchers have uncovered a range of possible chemical modifications to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and to proteins called histones that associate tightly with DNA in the nucleus. These modifications can determine when or even if a given gene is expressed in a cell or organism.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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