Zebrafish discoveries in cancer epigenetics

Yelena Chernyavskaya, Brandon Kent, Kirsten C. Sadler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The cancer epigenome is fundamentally different than that of normal cells. How these differences arise in and contribute to carcinogenesis is not known, and studies using model organisms such as zebrafish provide an opportunity to address these important questions. Modifications of histones and DNA comprise the complex epigenome, and these influence chromatin structure, genome stability and gene expression, all of which are fundamental to the cellular changes that cause cancer. The cancer genome atlas covers the wide spectrum of genetic changes associated with nearly every cancer type, however, this catalog is currently unidimensional. As the pattern of epigenetic marks and chromatin structure in cancer cells is described and overlaid on the mutational landscape, the map of the cancer genome becomes multi-dimensional and highly complex. Two major questions remain in the field: (1) how the epigenome becomes repatterned in cancer and (2) which of these changes are cancer-causing. Zebrafish provide a tractable in vivo system to monitor the epigenome during transformation and to identify epigenetic drivers of cancer. In this chapter, we review principles of cancer epigenetics and discuss recent work using zebrafish whereby epigenetic modifiers were established as cancer driver genes, thus providing novel insights into the mechanisms of epigenetic reprogramming in cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
PublisherSpringer New York LLC
Number of pages29
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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