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The term epigenome is derived from the Greek word epi which literally means "above" the genome. The epigenome consists of chemical compounds that modify, or mark, the genome in a way that tells it what to do, where to do it, and when to do it. Different cells have different epigenetic marks. These epigenetic marks, which are not part of the DNA itself, can be passed on from cell to cell as cells divide, and from one generation to the next.

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

Materials for Epigenome


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.


Beyond The DNA

Description: A concise and well illustrated guide to epigenetics and health.

Epigenetic Influences and Disease

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


Description: Information, videos, and interactive tutorials on epigenetics


Description: A fact sheet on epigenomics

Genetics and Epigenetics (PDF 119.49 KB)

Description: A printable poster introducing the concept of epigenetics

What is the Epigenome?

Description: An article describing the epigenome


Epigenetics Game

Description: Tour three game levels about bees, mice and humans where you will learn about genetics and epigenetics. In the fourth game level, create an avatar and twin-ize them. Select the behaviors for you and your twin. Fast forward in time to see how your genomes remain the same, but your epigenomes become different. But what else is changing?

Interactive Tutorials

Gene Control

Description: Add and remove epigenetic tags to change the shape of a gene. See what happens when tags are added or removed.

Lick Your Rats

Description: Practice nurturing a baby rat. Watch how your nurturing affects the rats development and behavior. Understand which genes are affected by the attentiveness of the rat parent.

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.

Genes, Environment and Genetic Complexity: Aggression in Humans (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Questions about whether genetics can, in part, explain violent, aggressive behavior in humans are not new. Recent episodes of large-scale violence, whether in schools or other public places, have renewed discussion about the intersection of crime, mental health and genetics. In this lesson, students are asked to examine popular but incorrect ideas related to the idea that a single gene or even set of genes can cause humans to behave aggressively.

NOVA scienceNOW - Epigenetics

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

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 Changes Our Minds? Toxicants, Exposure, and the Environment

Description: A series of lesson plans and laboratory experiments exploring the effects of environmental exposure to chemicals. You may need to register to view the plans, but the lesson plans and registration is free.

What Makes Honey Bees Work Together?

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

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.

The Epigenome at a Glance

Description: A short (2 minute) engaging video introduction to the epigenome.