Epigenetic game theory: How to compute the epigenetic control of maternal-to-zygotic transition.

Epigenetic reprogramming is thought to play a critical role in maintaining the normal development of embryos. How the methylation state of paternal and maternal genomes regulates embryogenesis depends on the interaction and coordination of the gametes of two sexes. While there is abundant research in exploring the epigenetic interactions of sperms and oocytes, a knowledge gap exists in the mechanistic quantitation of these interactions and their impact on embryo development. This review aims at formulating a modeling framework to address this gap through the integration and synthesis of evolutionary game theory and the latest discoveries of the epigenetic control of embryo development by next-generation sequencing. This framework, named epigenetic game theory or epiGame, views embryogenesis as an ecological system in which two highly distinct and specialized gametes coordinate through either cooperation or competition, or both, to maximize the fitness of embryos under Darwinian selection. By implementing a system of ordinary differential equations, epiGame quantifies the pattern and relative magnitude of the methylation effects on embryogenesis by the mechanisms of cooperation and competition. epiGame may gain new insight into reproductive biology and can be potentially applied to design personalized medicines for genetic disorder intervention.

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