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epigenetic landscapeepigenetische Landschaft (ger.)

  • A three-dimensional model used to describe the transformation processes in the development of an organism. (HWB)  

    The symbolic representation of developmental processes can be spoken of as the “epigenetic landscape”.

    Waddington, C.H. (1940). Organisers and Genes: 93.


    The essential character of regionalisation is that trajectories starting from the various points along the top edge find themselves converging on one or other of the organs marked along the bottom. The canalisation which we have described as characteristic of histogenesis implies, firstly, that the convergence takes place to end states which are sharply distinct from one another; and secondly, that if while the system is moving along a certain trajectory it is pushed slightly out of its course it will tend to compensate for this disturbance and to reach eventually the same end state as it would normally have done. These two characteristics have been expressed visually by the modelling, which, together with the initial tilt, controls the course of trajectories. We have to picture the surface as grooved by valleys, each leading to one of the normal end states. The number of separate valleys must increase as we pass down from the initial towards the final condition. I have earlier (1940) suggested the name of ‘the epigenetic landscape’ for this diagrammatic representation of the developing system. […] Although the epigenetic landscape only provides a rough and ready picture of the developing embryo, and cannot be interpreted rigorously, it has certain merits for those who, like myself, find it comforting to have some mental picture, however vague, for what they are trying to think about.

    Waddington, C.H. (1957). The Strategy of the Genes: 30.