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epinucleicepinukleisch (ger.)

  • Genetic information consisting in nucleic acid configuration other than nucleotide sequence.
    heredity extranucleic nucleic

    we can define a category of genetic information as being “nucleic”; that is, depending on the sequence of nucleotides in a nucleic acid. By contrast “epinucleic” information is expressed in another form, e.g., as an aspect of nucleic acid configuration other than nucleotide sequence or in polypeptide or polyamine adjuncts to the polynucleotide. We also have extranucleic information in molecules or reaction cycles not directly connected with nucleic acid.

    Lederberg, J. (1958). Genetic approaches to somatic cell variation: summary comment. J. Cell. Comp. Physiol. Suppl. 52, 383-392: 385.


    The cell may, of course, carry information other than nucleic either in the cytoplasm or, accessory to the polynucleotide sequence, in the chromosomes. Epinucleic information has been invoked, vvithout being more precisely defined, in many recent speculations on cytodifferentiation and on such models of this as antigenic phase variation in Sallmonella.

    Lederberg, J. (1960). A view of genetics. Science 131, 269-276: 270.


    epigenetic-H might be taken to imply that the developmental modulation of cell phenotype is always nuclear but not sequence-related (what I will suggest be called epinucleic). But there are many epigenetic-W (read developmental) processes that do depend on sequence-related changes, such as cellular senescence following upon telomere-shortening, or immunocyte diversification from promiscuous recombination and mutagenesis.

    Lederberg, J. (2001). The meaning of epigenetics. Scientist 17, 6.