Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Epigenetics and disease causality

Obviously this has a lot of important implications, one of which is the fact that we may be overestimating the heritability of traits like obesity and diabetes.

Epigenetic Inheritance and the Missing Heritability Problem
Montgomery Slatkin
Genetics July 2009; 182: 845
Abstract: Epigenetic phenomena, and in particularly heritable epigenetic changes, or transgenerational effects, are the subject of much discussion in the current literature. This paper presents a model of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance and explores the effect of epigenetic inheritance on the risk and recurrence risk of a complex disease. The model assumes that epigenetic modifications of the genome are gained and lost at specified rates and that each modification contributes multiplicatively to disease risk. The potentially high rate of loss of epigenetic modifications causes the probability of identity in state in close relatives to be smaller than is implied by their relatedness. As a consequence, the recurrence risk to close relatives is reduced. Although epigenetic modifications may contribute substantially to average risk, they will not contribute much to recurrence risk and heritability unless they persist on average for many generations. If they do persist for long times, they are equivalent to mutations and hence are likely to be in linkage disequilibrium with SNPs surveyed in genome-wide association studies. Thus epigenetic modifications are a potential solution to the problem of missing causality of complex diseases but not to the problem of missing heritability. The model highlights the need for empirical estimates of the persistence times of heritable epialleles.


Anonymous said...

See Kaminsky et al. 2009

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