Friday, February 8, 2013

Focus on: Paternal epigenetics

A recent study from Duke Medicine entitled: 'Paternal obesity is associated with IGF2 hypomethylation in newborns: results from a Newborn Epigenetics Study (NEST) cohort' has been published in BMC Medicine. While the effects of nutrition and environment on the mothers during pregnancy have been primarily studied this is the first study to show that obesity in the father can affect a child's health.

It is becoming increasingly clear that these effects are the result of epigenetics or modifications that change gene expression without affecting the underlying DNA sequence. In this study the level methylation of the insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) gene was monitored and showed that children with obese fathers had lower IGF2 methylation. Decreased IGF2 methylation has been associated with increased risk for developing cancers such as colorectal and ovarian cancer.

In order to better understand the epigenetic process it is necessary to understand the enzymes, such as methyltransferases that are involved. A procedure to characterize methyltranferases using a PHERAstar microplate reader from BMG LABTECH is described in application note 225, available at the applications center on BMG's website.