Why is epigenetics important in understanding the pathogenesis of inflammatory musculoskeletal diseases?
In its widest sense, the term epigenetics describes a range of mechanisms in genome function that do not solely result from the DNA sequence itself. These mechanisms comprise DNA and chromatin modifications and their associated systems, as well as the noncoding RNA machinery. The epigenetic apparatus is essential for controlling normal development and homeostasis, and also provides a means for the organism to integrate and react upon environmental cues. A multitude of functional studies as well as systematic genome-wide mapping of epigenetic marks and chromatin modifiers reveal the importance of epigenomic mechanisms in human pathologies, including inflammatory conditions and musculoskeletal disease such as rheumatoid arthritis. Collectively, these studies pave the way to identify possible novel therapeutic intervention points and to investigate the utility of drugs that interfere with epigenetic signalling not only in cancer, but possibly also in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.