Review Paper in the journal Heredity: Epigenetic regulatory mechanisms in vertebrate eye development and disease.

Epigenetic regulation is an additional layer of control on top of our actual raw genomic DNA sequence. Basically, this means that without actually changing or mutating the DNA sequence of a gene, it is possible for that gene to be expressed differently. This extra later of control is often through changing how the DNA is packaged away in chromatin. Chromatin refers to how our chromosomal DNA is really organized. That is, DNA wrapped around cores of nucleosome core proteins, called histone proteins. The cytosines in our DNA can be methylated (addition of methyl groups), and histone proteins can be acetylated (addition of acetyl groups), and these chemical modifications control how our chromatin is packed away in our cells. Tightly packed away, genes are dormant, off, away in the closet like winter clothes you are not using in summer time. Active genes, are out of storage, unpacked and ready to work. In this review paper Alex Cvekl, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx, NY) and I put together a detailed review on what we know so far about the roles of epigenetic regulation in vertebrate eye development and disease. Continue reading