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Epigenetics Glossary

Adipogenesis: Process of cell differentiation by which fat cells (i.e., adipocytes) are generated from precursor cells.

AMP/ATP ratio: Ratio of adenosine monophosphate (AMP) to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the cell; ATP supplies the energy needed for many biochemical reactions; therefore, the AMP/ATP ratio reflects the cell’s energy level.

Apoptosis: Series of biochemical reactions...

Alcohol Metabolism and Epigenetics Changes

The concept that only DNA and proteins can impact disease states is an oversimplification. It does not take into account different metabolic pathways in which key metabolites bind to transcription factors and alter gene expression patterns that contribute to the observable characteristics (the phenotype) of a given disease. Simple metabolites dictate the actions of specific transcription factors...

Stress, Epigenetics, and Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a complex disorder characterized by compulsive alcohol seeking and consumption that also is impacted by related psychiatric states, such as anxiety (Koob 2003; Pandey 2003). Both environmental and genetic factors influence alcohol drinking patterns and may increase susceptibility to the development of alcohol addiction (Cloninger 1987; Crabbe 2002). The presence or development of...

Epigenetic Effects of Ethanol on the Liver and Gastrointestinal System

Epigenetic modifications are emerging as important dynamic mechanisms contributing to both transient and sustained changes in gene expression. In some cases, epigenetic changes even can be inherited, although the mechanism for this remains elusive. Several types of epigenetic modifications have been studied in recent years. For example, several laboratories have actively examined modifications, of...

Epigenetic Control of Gene Expression in the Alcoholic Brain

Whether a specific gene is transcribed or repressed is determined by the specific status (i.e., conformational state) of the complex of chromosomal DNA and proteins (i.e., the chromatin) and by the recruitment of specific proteins (i.e., transcription factors) to regulatory sites on the DNA (Copeland et al. 2010). Chromatin states can change as a result of enzyme-mediated covalent modifications of...

In Utero Alcohol Exposure, Epigenetic Changes, and Their Consequences

Alcohol exposure of the developing embryo and fetus in utero can have a wide range of detrimental effects collectively referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Researchers are intensively investigating the mechanisms that may contribute to alcohol’s effects on the developing organism and to the resulting consequences, particularly with respect to the cognitive and behavioral...

Epigenetic Targets for Reversing Immune Defects Caused by Alcohol Exposure

Extensive clinical and experimental data suggest that alcohol consumption has dose-dependent modulatory effects on the immune system that influence the two arms of the immune response (i.e., innate and adaptive immune responses). In many other organ systems, such as the brain and liver, alcohol consumption has been shown to alter factors that can modify gene expression without changing the DNA...

Epigenetic Events in Liver Cancer Resulting From Alcoholic Liver Disease

The molecular pathogenesis of liver cancer (i.e., hepatocellular carcinoma [HCC]) is a multistep process that involves both genetic changes, such as chromosomal abnormalities and mutations of the DNA sequence (i.e., somatic mutations), and epigenetic mechanisms, such as chemical modifications of the DNA and the histone proteins around which the DNA is wrapped to form the chromosomes, microRNA...

Epigenetics—New Frontier for Alcohol Research - Editor's Note

The term “epigenetics” is rapidly becoming one of the more important watchwords in the field of alcohol research. Put simply, epigenetics is the study of changes in gene function that occur without a change in the body’s genetic code, instead relying on epigenetic markers on, among others, the DNA and certain nuclear proteins to turn genes “on” and “off.” Epigenetic changes also are brought about...

Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Cellular Differentiation: A Role for Polycomb and Trithorax Group Proteins in FAS Phenotypes?

Exposure of the developing embryo and fetus to alcohol can have profound adverse effects on physical, behavioral, and cognitive development. The resulting deficits collectively have been termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). They range in severity from mild cognitive deficits to a well-defined syndrome (i.e., fetal alcohol syndrome [FAS]), which is broadly characterized by low birth...