Epigenetic control of gene regulation during development and disease: A view from the retina

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Complex biological processes, such as organogenesis and homeostasis, are stringently regulated by genetic programs that are fine-tuned by epigenetic factors to establish cell fates and/or to respond to the microenvironment. Gene regulatory networks that guide cell differentiation and function are modulated and stabilized by modifications to DNA, RNA and proteins. In this review, we focus on two key epigenetic changes – DNA methylation and histone modifications – and discuss their contribution to retinal development, aging and disease, especially in the context of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. We highlight less-studied roles of DNA methylation and provide the RNA expression profiles of epigenetic enzymes in human and mouse retina in comparison to other tissues. We also review computational tools and emergent technologies to profile, analyze and integrate epigenetic information. We suggest implementation of editing tools and single-cell technologies to trace and perturb the epigenome for delineating its role in transcriptional regulation. Finally, we present our thoughts on exciting avenues for exploring epigenome in retinal metabolism, disease modeling, and regeneration.

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