Targeting the Epigenome with Dietary Agents
There is much interest in the fi eld of gene-diet interactions and the mechanisms by which nutritional factors modulate gene expression. Historically, most work has focused on the role of dietary micronutrients and vitamins in the maintenance of genomic integrity, and on specifi c defi ciencies that result in DNA damage, micronucleus formation, or chromosomal abnormalities. Dietary factors are critical substrates and cofactors in DNA metabolic pathways regulating the genome machinery. As such, they are capable of infl uencing multiple stages in carcinogenesis, including DNA repair, cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, differentiation, angiogenesis, and infl ammation. The ability of food components to alter gene expression, without actually changing the primary genetic sequence, is an important and exciting avenue of research centered on so-called epigenetic mechanisms. The term
epigenetics refers to the various processes that alter gene activity without altering the primary DNA code, including modifi cations that can be transmitted to daughter cells. This review provides an overview of epigenetics and the ways in which dietary factors can modulate the epigenome.