Genetic and Metabolic Determinants of Human Epigenetic Variation

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Purpose of review: Epigenetics has emerged in recent years as one of the most important biological mechanisms linking exposures across the life course to long-term health. This article reviews recent developments in our understanding of the metabolic and genetic determinants of epigenetic variation in human populations.

Recent findings: Epigenetic status is influenced by a range of environmental exposures, including diet and nutrition, social status, the early emotional environment, and infertility and its treatment. The period around conception is particularly sensitive to environmental exposures with evidence for effects on epigenetic imprinting within the offspring. Epigenetic status is also influenced by genotype, and genetic variation in methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase, and the DNA methytransferase and ten-eleven translocation methylcytosine dioxygenase proteins has been linked to the epigenetic status, biological function and disease.

Summary: Epigenetics is at the heart of a series of feedback loops linking the environment to the human genome in a way that allows crosstalk between the genome and the environment it exists within. It offers the potential for modification of adverse epigenetic states resulting from events/exposures at earlier life stages. We need to better understand the nutritional programming of epigenetic states, the persistence of these marks in time and their effect on biological function and health in current and future generations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-338
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


  • epigenetics
  • imprinting
  • genotype
  • DNMT
  • TET
  • nutrition


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