Epigenetic marks, including DNA methylation, histone modifications, and non-coding RNAs, modify chromatin structure and gene expression without changing the underlying DNA sequence. Unlike genetic mutations, which represent rare events with permanent consequences on genes, epigenetic changes are reversible and responsive to environmental influences. Epigenetic research not only provide tremendous opportunities to identify novel disease mechanisms, but may also decode epigenomic profiles that could serve as molecular archives of previous life experiences and predictors of an individual’s risks of future disease.
Using a highly quantitative Pyrosequencing-based approach and genome-scale technologies for DNA methylation analysis, we examine DNA methylation responses to a variety of environmental pollutants, including particulate air pollution, BPA, phthalates, metals, pesticides, dioxin-like compounds, and persistent organic pollutants, which are well known to be relevant to disease causation. We are dedicated to using state-of-art techniques for epigenomic analysis, not only investigating DNA methylation, but also antibody-based methods for histone modification analysis and real-time PCR and NanoString nCounter analysis to measure expression of short non-coding RNAs. We are currently establishing novel methods for genome-wide epigenomic analyses based on deep sequencing.