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Feast or Famine? Understanding Gene Expression

Phenotype is not simply determined by the genotype. Interactions between genes and the environment impact on gene expression, and therefore on phenotype. In this seminar we will explore how the environment during early life impacts on gene expression throughout life, and the work that scientists in New Zealand are undertaking to try to understanding more about this important phenomenon.

Scientists are now sure that improved childhood conditions, while contributing to the change in timing of puberty, is not the only cause. A number of prominent scientists, including New Zealand’s Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, believe that the change in timing of puberty that we are seeing is linked to environmental factors in early life that are contributing to changes in life history.

Scientists from the Liggins Institute and the National Research Centre for Growth and Development have shown that the nutritional environment that a fetus experiences in the womb has a strong influence on the age at which the puberty starts. If the mother eats a high fat diet, or is undernourished, when the fetus grows up it is more likely to start puberty early. They have also found that as these offspring grow up they are more likely to have learning difficulties, eat more, exercise less, become obese, get type 2 diabetes and suffer from high blood pressure.

Seminar paper
"Feast or Famine? Understanding Gene Expression" seminar paper (2.5 MB, PDF)
Pre-seminar paper
"Feast or Famine? Understanding Gene Expression" - pre-seminar paper (411.6 kB, PDF)
Challenge questions
"Feast or Famine? Understanding Gene Expression" - challenge questions (151.0 kB, PDF)