Epigenetic processes control the embryonic development into multicellular organisms and determine the functional differences of genetically identical cells and individuals. They are also involved in a variety of complex functions such as learning and memory consolidation and have been implicated in aging processes. Beyond the actual genetic information encoded in the DNA sequence, epigenetic modifications in particular DNA methylation and various histone modifications, shape the chromatin into a transcriptional permissive or repressive state. DNA methylation patterns are altered by environmental conditions and can be carried forward through mitosis and meiosis. Hence, DNA methylation probably mediates complex environment-gene interactions, determines individual disease characteristics and contributes to effects and side effects of drugs. In addition to classic monogenic epigenetic diseases, i.e. Prader-Willi and Rett syndrome, recent data point to an epigenetic component also in apparent sporadic neuro-psychiatric disorders and increasing evidence suggests a role for altered DNA methylation in Parkinson's disease. Epigenetic alterations, DNA methylation in particular, may account for the yet unexplained individual susceptibility and the variability of the course of Parkinson's disease and could provide hints towards the development of novel therapeutic targets. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
PMID: 27120258 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]