Epigenetic variation, phenotypic heritability, and evolution

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    Robert E. Furrow, Department of Biology, Standford University, United States
  • Freddy Bugge Christiansen
  • Marcus W. Feldman, Department of Biology, Standford University, United States
Familial aggregation of complex diseases may have many causes in
addition to and apart from genetic predisposition due to common ancestry. For
example, exposure to an environment that induces susceptibility to a disease may
produce similar familial aggregations when the environment is shared by family
members. In general, according to the principles of (Johannsen 1903), the emergence
of a disease phenotype is the result of the combined effects of the genotype of
the individual and the environment that it experiences during development. The
heritability of a disease is a measure of familial aggregation in terms of
the covariances among family members relative to the variance in disease state in
the general population. Thus heritability expresses the within-family resemblance,
observed by Darwin and inferred by him to reflect inheritance, which formed the
core of his (Darwin 1859) theory of evolution. Darwin’s inspiration originated from
the practical use of family resemblance in animal breeding. Animal breeders have
long known that a major obstacle to progress in genetic improvement is the
interaction between familial aggregation of environments and the effects of similar
genetics within families. The potential importance of this interaction, recognized in
classical studies of the genetic epidemiology of complex diseases and other quantitative
characters, has reemerged in studies of the effects of epigenetic
modifications, their variation, and their transmission between generations.
Translated title of the contributionEpigenetisk variation, fænotypisk heritabilitet og evolution
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEpigenetics and Complex Traits
EditorsAnna Naumova, Celia Greenwood
Number of pages14
Place of publicationNew York
Publication year2014
ISBN (print)978-1-4614-8077-8
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4614-8078-5
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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