© 2020, Springer Nature Limited. Research into the molecular genetics of osteoarthritis (OA) has been substantially bolstered in the past few years by the implementation of powerful genome-wide scans that have revealed a large number of novel risk loci associated with the disease. This refreshing wave of discovery has occurred concurrently with epigenetic studies of joint tissues that have examined DNA methylation, histone modifications and regulatory RNAs. These epigenetic analyses have involved investigations of joint development, homeostasis and disease and have used both human samples and animal models. What has become apparent from a comparison of these two complementary approaches is that many OA genetic risk signals interact with, map to or correlate with epigenetic mediators. This discovery implies that epigenetic mechanisms, and their effect on gene expression, are a major conduit through which OA genetic risk polymorphisms exert their functional effects. This observation is particularly exciting as it provides mechanistic insight into OA susceptibility. Furthermore, this knowledge reveals avenues for attenuating the negative effect of risk-conferring alleles by exposing the epigenome as an exploitable target for therapeutic intervention in OA.
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