Epigenetic mechanisms play an important role in the regulation of the Growth Hormone- Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (GH-IGF1) axis and in processes for controlling long bone growth, and carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Improvement of methodologies that allow for the assessment of epigenetic regulation have contributed enormously to the understanding of GH action, but many questions still remain to be clarified. The reversible nature of epigenetic factors and, particularly, their role as mediators between the genome and the environment, make them viable therapeutic target candidates. Rather than reviewing the molecular and epigenetic pathways regulated by GH action, in this review we have focused on the use of epigenetic modulators as potential drugs to improve the GH response. We first discuss recent progress in the understanding of intracellular molecular mechanisms controlling GH and IGF-I action. We then emphasize current advances in genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that control gene expression, and which support a key role for epigenetic regulation in the cascade of intracellular events that trigger GH action when coupled to its receptor. Thirdly, we focus on fetal programming and epigenetic regulation at the IGF1
locus. We then discuss epigenetic alterations in intrauterine growth retardation, and the possibility for a potential epigenetic pharmaceutical approach in short stature associated with this fetal condition. Lastly, we review an example of epigenetic therapeutics in the context of growth-related epigenetic deregulation disorders. The advance of our understanding of epigenetic changes and the impact they are having on new forms of therapy creates exciting prospects for the future.
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