The classic ‘Nature’ versus ‘Nurture’ debate is as hot a debate as they come in Science. These past few years a molecular link to the genome has been found to mediate the effect of Nurture on a molecular level; the epigenetic regulation of genes. Indeed we were the first to show in humans that prenatal exposure to the Dutch Famine can leave a persistent mark on DNA methylation, one of these marks, influencing the all important developmental gene IGF2.
We used this early lead to study the influence of the Famine (‘Nurture’) and genetic variation (‘Nature’) in tandem to discover that these two factors can independently influence DNA methylation at the same gene. Moreover, the influences were additive, indicating that ‘Nature’ and ‘Nurture’ can happily come together and sculpt your epigenetic make-up. Maybe the classical debate is more like the battle of the sexes; heated discussions, but even more fraternizing with the enemy.