Understanding Gene Expression

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Feast or Famine: Understanding Gene Expression

A copy of the entire genome of an individual is contained in the nucleus of every cell, yet only those genes required by a particular cell are turned on, or expressed in that cell. There is a system of control designed to ensure that genes are only expressed when they are needed. However, the phenotype is not simply determined by the genotype. Interactions between genes and the environment impact on gene expression, and therefore on phenotype. While environment throughout our lives will impact on gene expression, in this seminar we will explore how the environment during early life impacts on gene expression throughout life, and the work that scientists in New Zealand are undertaking to try to understanding more about this important phenomenon.

This Understanding Gene Expression Seminar includes these resources to assist your learning :

The Seminar Paper and Challenge Questions

Download the Seminar Paper

Post your answers to the challenge questions on the pages below:

1) Define the term early life nutritional environment means and discuss the potential that this environment has to impact on the health and well being of the individual. In your answer consider the following areas: early puberty; obesity; adult diseases. Post answer here.

2) Define oxidative stress and discuss how nutrition can contribute to minimising oxidative stress.Post answer here..

3) Using the information presented in the seminar paper and your knowledge of gene expression, explain what is meant by epigenetic modification and why these modifications could potentially alter the phenotype that is expressed. Post answer here.

If you have any questions that you would like answered post them on the Question page.

The Seminar Multimedia

Click here to download part one of the this seminar, Click here to download part two of the seminar or click on the player below to watch the streaming version

About the Presenters

Jacquie Bay   |  Deborah Sloboda

Developmental Origins and Epigenetics Research at The Liggins Institute

Dr Deborah Sloboda and Dr Mark Vickers lead the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) research group at the Liggins Institute. This group is interested in understanding the impact of maternal nutrition on health and wellbeing in offspring. Many members of the Liggins Institute, including Professor Peter Gluckman who leads the Evolutionary Biology and Epigenetics research group are investigating how epigenetic mechanisms underpin the relationship between early life environment and phenotype. Dr Sloboda, Dr Vickers and Professor Gluckman collaborate with scientists from AgResearch, The Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences (A*STAR), the University of Southampton DOHaD Institute led by Professor Mark Hanson and McGill University Montreal.

Useful Links and References to Online Papers

Web Sites that will be useful

Antioxidants and Food

Learn Genetics  - Epigenetics - a very good introduction to epigenetics aimed at school students.

The Raine Study - learn about the Raine Study in Australia

The Hertfordshire Cohort Study - learn more about this study that helped scientists understand more about how the relationhsip between genome and early life environment impacts on health and aging in later life.

The Barker Hypothesis Learn about the work of Professor David Barker

The International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)

The Dutch Famine Study

Relevant Papers Available Freely Online - Remember Nature Education Papers are written specifically for students your age.

Deborah M. Sloboda, Graham J. Howie, Anthony Pleasants, Peter D. Gluckman, Mark H. Vickers (2009) "Pre- and Postnatal Nutritional Histories Influence Reproductive Maturation and Ovarian Function in the Rat" PLoS ONE 4(8): e6744. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006744

Howie G J,  Sloboda D M, KamalT Vickers M H (2009) "Maternal nutritional history predicts obesity in adult offspring independent of postnatal diet" The Jounral of Physiology 587(4): 905 -915
Cooney, C, A. (2006) Germ cells carry the epigenetics benefits of grandmother’s diet PNAS Vol 103, no.46, 17071 –17072

Adams, J. (2008) Obesity, epigenetics, and gene regulation. Nature Education 1(1)

Jones P. A. (2008) Moving AHEAD with an international human epigenome project Nature Vol 454 711 - 715

Laura, B. (2008) Epigenomics: The new tool in studying complex diseases. Nature Education 1(1)

Simmons, D. (2008) Epigenetic influence and disease. Nature Education 1(1)

Experimental Simulation by Dr. Randy Jirtle and Dr. Robert Waterland at Duke University Medical Center showing epigenetic effects

Hunter, P. (2008) We are what we eat. The link between diet, evolution and non-genetic inheritance. EMBO reports 9, 5, 413–415
Pray, L. A (2004) Epigenetics: Genome, Meet Your Environment: As the evidence accumulates for epigenetics, researchers reacquire a taste for Lamarckism. The Scientist (2004) 18 (13): 14

Wade, P.A. Archer, T. K.(2006) Epigenetics – environmental instructions for the genome. Environmental Health Perspectives VOLUME 114, NUMBER 3

Weinhold B (2006) Epigenetics: The Science of Change Environmental Health Perspectives VOLUME 114, NUMBER 3 

New Scientist - Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions