Ecology & Evolution
ELP-STORIES - Ecology & Evolution
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Crops and climate change: How studying epigenetic changes during droughts may help build hardier crops
June 20, 2017 | Nancy Brill | Epigenetics Literacy Project
What would it look like if the rate of an environmental change such as drought outpaced a plant’s ability to adapt to that change?  What if those plants were important agricultural crops and we could no longer grow them? The scientists in the Lemaux laboratory in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California-Berkeley, led by Peggy Lemaux, are looking for ways to prevent exactly that…
Read ELP’s Nicholas Staropoli’s Reddit science ‘Ask Me Anything’ on hype of epigenetics and health
May 31, 2017 | Nicholas Staropoli | Epigenetics Literacy Project
Editor’s Note: On Friday, June 2nd from 1pm–3pm EDT, ELP director Nicholas Staropoli hosted a Reddit-science Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) about the hype surrounding epigenetics and human health. Read the full transcript here. *     *     * I’m Nicholas Staropoli, director of the Epigenetics Literacy Project, here to discuss the controversial field of epigenetics that some say is revolutionizing human health and our understanding of how inheritance and evolution work. AMA! Hi…
Epigenetically modified organisms: The coming EPO farming and food revolution?
May 09, 2017 | Nicholas Staropoli | Epigenetics Literacy Project
Agriculture around the world faces a myriad of problems: Pests, weeds, random and extreme weather, and drought, to name a few. While none of these issues are new, because of climate change in particular, several of them are being exacerbated. Techniques like genetic engineering, artificial selection, and mutagenesis have made great strides in producing crops with novel or enhanced genes that can tackle these issues. But modifying genomes and focusing on the identity…
How epigenetics, proteins work together to regulate gene expression
May 08, 2017 | Avaneesh Pandey | International Business Times
In a new study published in the journal Science, a team of researchers has described how DNA-binding proteins (called transcription factors) react to and interpret these "epigenetic" changes. The study reveals that certain "master" regulatory proteins can activate regions of the genome that are normally inactive. "This study identifies how the modification of the DNA structure affects the binding of transcription factors, and this increases our understanding of how genes…
Computer program goes ‘Deep’ into genome to provide more accurate methylation data
May 03, 2017 | Genome Web
A UK team has developed a computational method for filling in gaps in available DNA methylation profiles produced from individual cells. The researchers used a so-called deep neural network strategy to develop their method, called DeepCpG, as they reported [April 10] in Genome Biology. "Across all cell types, DeepCpG yielded substantially more accurate predictions of methylation states than previous approaches," senior author Oliver Stegle, a group leader at the European Bioinformatics…
Does epigenetics undermine Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection?
May 02, 2017 | Jenny Graves, Nick Murphy, Neil Murray | Epigenetics Literacy Project
The remarkable adaptability of octopus with new evidence showing they can alter the information copied from their DNA is an example of epigenetics: modification of gene expression by factors “above” the DNA. But does this undermine Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection? As epigenetics becomes a buzzword in discussions of human differences and diseases, this idea has seeped into the popular press and been eagerly adopted by creationists.…
Inheritance of epigenetic changes observed for 14 generations in roundworms
April 25, 2017 | Signe Dean | Science Alert
Researchers have now discovered that these kinds of environmental genetic changes can be passed down for a whopping 14 generations in an animal – the largest span ever observed in a creature, in this case being a dynasty of C. elegans nematodes (roundworms). To study how long the environment can leave a mark on genetic expression, a team led by scientists from the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in Spain took genetically engineered nematode worms…
Trofim Lysenko: Controversial soviet-era ag scientist’s belief in inherited characteristics making comeback
April 17, 2017 | Loren Graham | WBUR
[Editor's note: This is an escerpt from an interview with professor emeritus Loren Graham of MIT and Harvard.] Graham: Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was an agronomist, a rather poorly educated one, who in the late 1920s and the early 1930s began attracting a lot of attention in the Soviet Union because he maintained that he could increase crop yields dramatically. ... [caption id="attachment_3512" align="alignleft" width="291"] Lysenko[/caption] He maintained he could convert one into…
Targeting mosquito gene expression could provide chemical-free control of Zika, dengue
April 12, 2017 | Richard Levine | Epigenetics Literacy Project
As the end of the winter season approaches, the threat of insect-borne diseases such as Zika will inevitably grow. Longer days and warmer weather will lead to larger populations of mosquitoes, many of which are capable of transmitting West Nile virus, Zika, dengue, and other diseases. Traditional methods of controlling mosquitoes often involve spraying pesticides on foliage to kill the adults, but that can be problematic because the chemicals may also…
CRISPR epigenome editing seeks to uncover how altered gene expression affects our health
April 10, 2017 | Genome Web
Researchers interested in untangling the functional roles of regulatory elements have a new screening tool at their disposal: a CRISPR-Cas9-based epigenomic editing scheme. In a study appearing online [April 3] in Nature Biotechnology, Duke University researchers introduced a strategy known as "CRISPR-Cas9-based epigenomic regulatory element screening," or CERES, designed for profiling regulatory elements in a high-throughput manner in a native chromosome context. By using CERES in screens for gain- or…