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Epigenetics/Inheritance and the Environment

Epigenetics/Inheritance and the Environment

The genome’s dynamic response to the environment

Epigenetics is an emerging field of science that studies heritable changes caused by the activation and deactivation of genes without any change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism. The word epigenetics is of Greek origin and literally means over and above (epi) the genome.

Learn more from scientific experts about Epigenetics/Inheritance and the Environment at NHGRI's Talking Glossary

Materials for Epigenetics/Inheritance and the Environment


Engaging Epigenetics: A Tool for Stakeholder Education

Description: An animation on epigenetics showing how a pollutant, like BPA, can change how a gene is expressed.


Epigenetic Influences and Disease

Description: An article by Danielle Simmons on how epigenetic changes are involved in human disease

Epigenetics - Looking Beyond Our DNA

Description: Explore how epigenetics can impact healthcare

Genetics and Epigenetics (PDF 119.49 KB)

Description: A printable poster introducing the concept of epigenetics

NOVA Epigenetic Therapy

Description: An illustrated Q&A on the role epigenetics plays in cancer.


Lick Your Rats

Description: An interactive activity demonstrating how nurturing a pup can produce epigenetic change


Fat? Sick? Blame Your Grandparents' Bad Habits

Description: Epigenetic switches can be flipped on and off in sperm, eggs, or embryos, so your kids and grandkids can share your environmental experiences and knowledge, and be better prepared for the environment they will soon be entering.

Interactive Tutorials


Description: Information, videos, and interactive tutorials on epigenetics

Teacher Resources

Epigenetics Module (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: These three lesson plans explore some of the mechanisms that turn genes on and off and how our environment can affect this.

NOVA scienceNOW - Epigenetics (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Students make a model of chromatin and use it to show how chemical tags that bond to the chromatin can influence its uncoiling.

The Mystery of Calico Cats (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson, students explore the genetics and epigenetics behind calico cats. Using sex-linked Punnett squares, students must determine what the genotype for coat color is for calico cats. The class then discusses why dosage compensation for the X chromosome is necessary in females and how that relates to the patchy appearance and female sex of calico cats.

What Makes Honey Bees Work Together? (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A series of lesson plans exploring how genes and environment affect behavior, as well as introduces students to research tools used to investigate gene expression. You may need to register to view the lesson plans, but the plans and registration is free.

What Makes Me Tick...Tock? Circadian Rhythms, Genetics, and Health (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A series of lesson plans exploring how environment, genes, and proteins affect behavior. The lesson plans incorporate real-life examples, case studies, and interactive online components to teach concepts of epigenetics. You may need to register to view the lesson plans, but the plans and registration is free.


NOVA - Epigenetics

Description: An engaging 13 minute video on epigenetics. Explore why identical twins can have subtle differences in appearance, and learn about a research study involving genetically identical mice that differ greatly in size.

What's Next Health: Randy Jirtle

Description: A senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison talks about the impact epigenetics has on human health and disease