Purpose of review
Epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, histone modification and microRNA control the accessibility of the genome and manage gene transcription in response to the environment in a heritable fashion. Recent evidence suggests that these mechanisms play a role in allergy and asthma.
Here, we give an overview on recent developments in the field of asthma and allergy epigenetics with a special focus on the role of DNA methylation in these diseases, where finally, first pilot studies investigating differences in methylation pattern in patients have been published. Although these studies have to be interpreted with caution, it seems that methylation is affected by environmental stimuli such as prenatal smoke exposure and farming environments, whereas asthma status is associated with change in methylation in early childhood.
Early stage data from population studies indicate a role of methylation differences in asthma and allergy, whereas the exact impact of these epigenetic mechanisms on disease development needs to be elucidated further.