Cause and effect in epigenetics – where lies the truth, and how can experiments reveal it? Epigenetic self-reinforcing loops obscure causation in cancer and aging

Michael Klutstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Epigenetic changes are implicated in aging and cancer. Sometimes, it is clear whether the causing agent of the condition is a genetic factor or epigenetic. In other cases, the causative factor is unclear, and could be either genetic or epigenetic. Is there a general role for epigenetic changes in cancer and aging? Here, I present the paradigm of causative roles executed by epigenetic changes. I discuss cases with clear roles of the epigenome in cancer and aging, and other cases showing involvement of other factors. I also present the possibility that sometimes causality is difficult to assign because of the presence of self-reinforcing loops in epigenetic regulation. Such loops hinder the identification of the causative factor. I provide an experimental framework by which the role of the epigenome can be examined in a better setting and where the presence of such loops could be investigated in more detail.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number2000262
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBioEssays
Volume43
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Wiley Periodicals LLC

Keywords

  • aging
  • cancer
  • causality
  • epigenetics
  • histone modification
  • methylation
  • self reinforcing loops

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