COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. – Mad cows, cloned embryos, cocaine addicts, calico kittens, and “identical” twins: all of these living creatures have epigenetics to credit for some quirky characteristics. Epigenetics—the study of heritable traits that are not attributable to alterations in DNA sequence—has provided substantial insight into fundamental biological processes, including the development of stem cells, the mechanics of gene regulation, and the basis of some human diseases. This burgeoning field is the subject of a comprehensive new book—Epigenetics—just released by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Edited by preeminent scientists David Allis, Thomas Jenuwein, and Danny Reinberg, together with Marie-Laure Caparros, Epigenetics includes 24 chapters written by experts in the field. Contributors include John Gurdon and Rudi Jaenisch (nuclear transplantation), Azim Surani (stem cells), Adrian Bird (DNA methylation), Denise Barlow (genomic imprinting), Arthur Beaudet (human diseases), and Robert Martienssen (RNA interference), among others.
“The overriding motivation for deciding to edit this book was the general belief that we and all the contributors to the volume could transmit this excitement to future generations of students, scientists, and physicians, most of whom were taught genetic, but not epigenetic, principles governing inheritance and chromosome segregation,” explain the editors in the third chapter.
Geared towards advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professional scientists, Epigenetics is the first textbook on this topic and will serve as a valuable reference and educational tool. Its conceptual nature will appeal to students and instructors, while scientists involved in epigenetics-related research, such as cancer biology, stem cell research, and developmental biology, will find the book—502 pages in length—an informative and comprehensive reference.
“This book discusses the fundamental concepts and general principles that explain how epigenetic phenomena occur,” write the editors. “Our ultimate goal is to expose the reader to the current understanding of mechanisms that guide and shape these concepts, drawing upon the rich biology from which they emerge.”
DNA operates from within a cellular milieu: the surrounding proteins, RNA, and other environmental factors ultimately govern its expression and function. It is within this context that Epigenetics commences. The first chapters outline the basic molecular mechanisms underpinning epigenetic regulation, including DNA methylation, chromatin modifications, and RNA interference, as well as cellular processes and pathways that rely on such mechanisms.
The book then details X-chromosome inactivation, cell fate and reprogramming, dosage compensation, RNA interference and gene silencing, genomic imprinting, and paramutation. It provides a historical basis for the field and discusses model organisms used for epigenetic studies—including microbes, plants, insects, fungus, and mammals. The book’s last few chapters examine the implications of epigenetic research for aging, cancer, and other human diseases.
About Epigenetics: For more information on Epigenetics (ISBN 0-87969-724-5; © 2007, 502 pp., illus., appendices, index; hardcover, $150), see http://www.cshlpress.com/link/epigen.htm.
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is an internationally renowned publisher of books, journals, and electronic media, located on Long Island, New York. It is a division of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an innovator in life science research and the education of scientists, students, and the public. For more information, visit www.cshlpress.com.
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