Understanding the consequences of epigenetic mechanisms and their effect on transcription in health and disease

Assam El-Osta

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Over the course of thirty-five years of research into the chromosome we are confronted with a number of general conclusions central to chromatin biology, perhaps most pertinent of these is that organization of higher order nucleosome structures play a fundamental role in DNA behavior. Folding and packaging of DNA is linked with a number of processes ranging from transcriptional regulation, genome stability, chromosome segregation, including replication and repair. Intrinsic to nuclear function is chromatin structure and the relationship with epigenetic modification. While we are aware that genetic and epigenetic changes can influence tumorigenesis, it is still unclear what protein components are specified on chromatin or the molecular events that underlie the link between chromosomes and cancer. In recent years, our understanding of DNA methylation with cancer development has revealed some surprising findings with particular emphasis on the antithetical character of hypo- and hyper- methylation of DNA. The molecular mechanism by which methylation is responsible for increased cancer risk has received widespread attention and is relavent to our understanding of genetic stability. The biological significance of other epigenetic modifications such as histone tail changes and active chromatin remodeling are also a major driving force in chromosome research in cancer. In light of recent advances in the understanding of epigenetic changes in disease we have organized a focused review series and discuss the significance of Epigenetics in Normal Control and Deregulation in Cancer. Authors from divergent fields of study have contributed articles that examine chromatin dynamics in cancer, bringing together research interests from a wide variety of fields. In this vein, we discuss the consequences of deregulating epigenetic mechanisms with a viewpoint on transcriptional control, chromatin function and human disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)816-818
Number of pages3
JournalCancer Biology and Therapy
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


  • Chemotherapy
  • Chromatin
  • Epigenetics
  • Leukemia
  • Stem cells
  • Transcription

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