Epigenetic Programming and Risk: The Birthplace of Cardiovascular Disease?
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- Vinci, M.C., Polvani, G. & Pesce, M. Stem Cell Rev and Rep (2013) 9: 241. doi:10.1007/s12015-012-9398-z
Epigenetics, through control of gene expression circuitries, plays important roles in various physiological processes such as stem cell differentiation and self renewal. This occurs during embryonic development, in different tissues, and in response to environmental stimuli. The language of epigenetic program is based on specific covalent modifications of DNA and chromatin. Thus, in addition to the individual identity, encoded by sequence of the four bases of the DNA, there is a cell type identity characterized by its positioning in the epigenetic “landscape”. Aberrant changes in epigenetic marks induced by environmental cues may contribute to the development of abnormal phenotypes associated with different human diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and inflammation. Most of the epigenetic studies have focused on embryonic development and cancer biology, while little has been done to explore the role of epigenetic mechanisms in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. This review highlights our current knowledge of epigenetic gene regulation and the evidence that chromatin remodeling and histone modifications play key roles in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease through (re)programming of cardiovascular (stem) cells commitment, identity and function.