Moreover, if gene inactivation occurs in a sperm or egg cell that results in fertilization, this epigenetic modification may also be transferred to the next generation.
Specific epigenetic processes include paramutation, bookmarking, imprinting, gene silencing, X chromosome inactivation, position effect, DNA methylation reprogramming, transvection, maternal effects, the progress of carcinogenesis, many effects of teratogens, regulation of histone modifications and heterochromatin, and technical limitations affecting parthenogenesis and cloning. DNA damage is very frequent, occurring on average about 60,000 times a day per cell of the human body (see DNA damage (naturally occurring)).
This view encompasses all of the possible developing factors on an organism and how they not only influence the organism and each other, but how the organism also influences its own development.
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The microstructure (not code) of DNA itself or the associated chromatin proteins may be modified, causing activation or silencing.
This mechanism enables differentiated cells in a multicellular organism to express only the genes that are necessary for their own activity.
These epigenetic changes may last through cell divisions for the duration of the cell's life, and may also last for multiple generations even though they do not involve changes in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism; One example of an epigenetic change in eukaryotic biology is the process of cellular differentiation.
During morphogenesis, totipotent stem cells become the various pluripotent cell lines of the embryo, which in turn become fully differentiated cells.
The similarity of the word to "genetics" has generated many parallel usages.