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Genetics Research International
Volume 2012, Article ID 689819, 14 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/689819
Review Article

Transgenic Epigenetics: Using Transgenic Organisms to Examine Epigenetic Phenomena

1Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 4R2
2Department of Physiology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 4R2

Received 16 September 2011; Revised 19 December 2011; Accepted 2 January 2012

Academic Editor: Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Copyright © 2012 Lori A. McEachern. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Non-model organisms are generally more difficult and/or time consuming to work with than model organisms. In addition, epigenetic analysis of model organisms is facilitated by well-established protocols, and commercially-available reagents and kits that may not be available for, or previously tested on, non-model organisms. Given the evolutionary conservation and widespread nature of many epigenetic mechanisms, a powerful method to analyze epigenetic phenomena from non-model organisms would be to use transgenic model organisms containing an epigenetic region of interest from the non-model. Interestingly, while transgenic Drosophila and mice have provided significant insight into the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary conservation of the epigenetic processes that target epigenetic control regions in other model organisms, this method has so far been under-exploited for non-model organism epigenetic analysis. This paper details several experiments that have examined the epigenetic processes of genomic imprinting and paramutation, by transferring an epigenetic control region from one model organism to another. These cross-species experiments demonstrate that valuable insight into both the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary conservation of epigenetic processes may be obtained via transgenic experiments, which can then be used to guide further investigations and experiments in the species of interest.