The regulation of chromatin structure and gene expression depends substantially on a dynamic and intricate layer of biological and chemical information that constitutes the epigenome. This epigenetic layer of information holds fundamental clues to the molecular mechanisms, not yet fully understood, by which a genotype can influence and configure a specific phenotype. A profound understanding of the molecular underpinnings of epigenetic processes is, thus, essential to wield deliberate spatiotemporal control of gene activation and repression. However, only recently has the technology required to adequately probe the functional significance of specific epigenetic mechanisms become available. This chapter provides an overview of modern epigenome editing systems, including zinc finger proteins, TAL effectors, and CRISPR–Cas systems. It highlights the use of biotechnological tools to investigate the role of DNA and histone post-translational modifications as well as regulatory RNAs to manipulate specific patterns of gene expression. This chapter further discusses the technological limitations that have limited our ability to elucidate epigenetic mechanisms in local and genome-wide contexts.
Part of the book: Chromatin and Epigenetics