Epigenetic regulation - the influence on which genes are expressed in a cell - is a key player in embryonic development and cancer formation. Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory have gained new insight into one crucial epigenetic mechanism and reveal that it acts much faster than assumed. Estrogen causes rapid epigenetic changes in breast cancer cells. The new findings impact upon our understanding of how cells interpret their DNA and suggest that epigenetic regulation can affect gene expression immediately and long-term.
The work, which was partly funded by the EU, is published in the latest edition of the journal Nature.
Until now, scientists had thought that DNA methylation was a long term process. However, this latest piece of research shows that in breast cancer cells, estrogen and certain drugs can cause rapid changes in methylation. The researchers suggest that understanding this process could be particularly useful given the role of methylation in controlling some estrogen-related promoters and the established links between breast cancer and estrogen.
Steve - if you have kept up with our blog and newsletters, you will know that methylation is a buzzword around here. The better we methylate, the healthier we are. Epigenetics can make it easier or more difficult to methylate depending on our diet, lifestyle, environment, and medication intake. What we like to do here is find every possible way to assure that our kinases, or epigenetic hubs, are in harmony so kinder, gentler messages flow to our genes. When the messages become aggravating and inflammatory, our genes act up, and sometimes, in a negative fashion.
The more we learn about epigenetics, the easier it is to understand why HRT, COX-2 Inhibitors, SSRI's, and other classes of drugs found have been found to cause adverse effects. When your goal is to "block" the epigenetic process, or "replace" natural substances with synthetic chemicals, in many cases your genetic messages become adverse.